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CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Galatians 3:1. Who hath bewitched you?—Fascinated you, as if overlooked by the evil eye, so that your brain is confused. The Galatians were reputed to possess acute intellects: the apostle marvelled the more at their defection. That ye should not obey the truth.—Omitted in R.V. Before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified.—In preaching, a vivid portraiture of Christ crucified has been set before you as if depicted in graphic characters impossible to mistake.
Galatians 3:3. Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?—What monstrous folly is this! Will you so violate the divine order of progress? The flesh may be easily mistaken for the Spirit, even by those who have made progress, unless they continue to maintain a pure faith (Bengel).
Galatians 3:4. Have ye suffered so many things in vain?—Since ye might have avoided them by professing Judaism. Will ye lose the reward promised for all suffering?
Galatians 3:5. He that worketh miracles among you.—In you, at your conversion and since.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Galatians 3:1-5
The Deceptive Glamour of Error—
I. Diverts the gaze of the soul from the most suggestive truth.—“Before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified” (Galatians 3:1). The cross of Christ was the great theme of Paul’s preaching. He depicted it in such vivid colours, and dwelt on every detail of the story with such intense earnestness and loving emphasis, that the Galatians were arrested, excited, charmed. They were smitten with a sense of sin. They seemed to be actors in the scene, as if their own hands had driven in the nails that pierced the sacred Victim. They were bowed with shame and humiliation, and in an agony of repentance they cast themselves before the Crucified and took Him for their Christ and King. While they looked to Jesus they were secure, but when they listened to the deceptive voice of error their gaze was diverted and the deep significance of the cross became obscured. Then backsliding began. Like mariners losing sight of their guiding star, they drifted into strange waters. The cross is the central force of Christianity; when it fades from view Christianity declines. “As the sun draws the vapours of the sea, and then paints a rainbow on them, so Christ draws men and then glorifies them. His attraction is like that of the sun. It is magnetic too, like that of the magnet to the pole. It is not simply the Christ that is the magnet; it is the crucified Christ. It is not Christ without the cross, nor the cross without Christ; it is both of them together.”
II. Confuses the mind as to the nature and value of spiritual agencies.—
1. Concerning the method of their first reception.—“Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Galatians 3:2). Making it appear that spiritual blessings were acquired by outward observance rather than by inward contemplation and faith. Confusing the true method of moral regeneration, it arrests all growth and advancement in the spiritual life. It throws back the soul on the weary round of toilsome and hopeless human effort.
2. Concerning the purpose for which they were given.—“Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3). It was a reversal of the divine order. Having begun in the Spirit, so they must continue, or they would be undone. It was absurd to look for perfection in the flesh, especially when they had discovered its helplessness and misery. Pharisaic ordinances could do nothing to consummate the work of faith and love; Moses could not lead them higher than Christ; circumcision could never effect what the Holy Ghost failed to do. Spiritual results can be brought about only by spiritual agencies.
3. Rendering suffering on behalf of the truth meaningless.—“Have ye suffered so many things in vain?” (Galatians 3:4). The Galatians on their conversion were exposed to the fiercest persecution from the Jews and from their own countrymen incited by the Jews. No one could come out of heathen society and espouse the cause of Christ in those days, nor can he do so to-day, without making himself a mark for ridicule and violence, without the rupture of family and public ties, and many painful sacrifices. But if the truth may be so easily abandoned, all early struggles against opposition and all the educative influence and promised reward of suffering must go for nothing. It is disappointing and disastrous when a youthful zeal for religion degenerates in maturer life into apathy and worldliness, when the great principles of right and liberty, for which our fathers fought and suffered, are treated by their descendants with supine indifference.
III. Creates misconceptions as to the divine method of ministering spiritual blessing.—“He that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Galatians 3:5). One of the most subtle effects of error is to suspend the mind in a state of hesitation and doubt. It is a dangerous mood. Confidence in the truth is shaken, and for the moment the soul has nothing stable on which to lay hold. It is the opportunity for the enemy, and damage is done which even a subsequent return to the truth does not wholly efface. Paul saw the peril of his converts, and he suggests this test—the Spirit of God had put His seal on the apostle’s preaching and on the faith of his hearers. Did any such manifestation accompany the preaching of the legalists? He takes his stand on the indubitable evidence of the work of the Spirit. It is the only safe ground for the champion of experimental Christianity (1 Corinthians 2:14-15).
1. Every error is the distortion of some truth.
2. The cross is the central truth of Christianity.
3. The highest truths are spiritually discerned.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Galatians 3:1. Faithful Reproof.—
1. The minister when he is called to insist upon the clearing up of truth, whether positively by showing what is revealed in Scripture or controversially by refuting errors, should mix his discourse with exhortation and reproof, to excite and quicken the affections of his hearers.
2. False teachers, who by fair words deceive the simple, are spiritual sorcerers, and error is spiritual witchcraft. As sorcerers by deluding the senses make people apprehend that they see what they see not, so false teachers, by casting a mist of seeming reason before the understanding, delude it, and make the deluded person to believe that to be truth which is not.
3. Though Christ and His sufferings are to be vividly represented and pictured by the plain and powerful preaching of the gospel, yet it does not follow they are to be artificially painted with colours on stone or timber for religious use. The graven image is a teacher of lies (Habakkuk 2:18).—Fergusson.
The Folly of Disobedience.
I. We are wise in matters of the world, but in matters concerning the kingdom of heaven the most of us are fools, besotted and bewitched with worldly cares and pleasures, without sense in matters of religion; like a piece of wax without form, fit to take the form and print of any religion.
II. The truth here mentioned is the heavenly doctrine of the gospel, so called because it is absolute truth without error, and because it is a most worthy truth—the truth according to godliness.
III. The office of the minister is to set forth Christ crucified.—
1. The ministry of the word must be plain, perspicuous, and evident, as if the doctrine were pictured and painted out before the eyes of men.
2. It must be powerful and lively in operation, and as it were crucifying Christ within us and causing us to feel the virtue of His passion. The word preached must pierce into the heart like a two-edged sword.
3. The effectual and powerful preaching of the word stands in three things:
(1) True and proper interpretation of the Scripture.
(2) Savoury and wholesome doctrine gathered out of the Scriptures truly expounded.
(3) The application of the said doctrine, either to the information of the judgment or the reformation of the life.
IV. The duty of all believers is to behold Christ crucified.—And we must behold Him by the eye of faith, which makes us both see Him and feel Him, as it were, crucified in us.
1. By beholding Christ crucified we see our misery and wickedness.
2. This sight brings us true and lively comfort.
3. This sight of Christ makes a wonderful change in us. The chameleon takes the colours of the things it sees and that are near to it; and the believing heart takes to it the disposition and mind that was in Christ.—Perkins.
Attractiveness of Worth.—In the Paris Salon some few years ago there was a bust of the painter Baudry by Paul Dubois, one of the greatest modern sculptors. Mr. Edmund Gosse was sitting to contemplate this bust when an American gentleman strolled by, caught sight of it, and after hovering round it for some time came and sat by his side and watched it. Presently he turned to Mr. Gosse inquiring if he could tell him whose it was, and whether it was thought much of, adding with a charming modesty, “I don’t know anything about art; but I found that I could not get past that head.” Would that we could so set forth Christ that His word might be fulfilled, “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me”!
Galatians 3:2-5. Searching Questions—
1. As to the mode of receiving the Spirit (Galatians 3:2).
2. As to the folly of expecting advancement by substituting an inferior for a superior force (Galatians 3:3).
3. As to the uselessness of suffering (Galatians 3:4).
4. As to the exercise of spiritual and miraculous power (Galatians 3:5).
Galatians 3:4. Suffering for the Truth.—They may suffer many things for truth who afterwards fall from it. As the example of others, particular interest and general applause will make even hypocrites suffer much, so continued suffering will make even the godly faint for a time. The best, being left to themselves, in an hour of temptation, will turn their back upon truth, so that no profession, no experience or remembrance of the joy and sweetness found in the way of truth, nor their former sufferings for it, will make them adhere to it.
1. Whatever have been the sufferings for truth, they are all in vain, lost and to no purpose, if the party make defection from and turn his back upon the truth.
3. Though those who have suffered much for the truth should afterwards fall from it, we are to keep charity towards them, hoping God will give them repentance and reclaim them. All our sharpness towards them ought to be wisely tempered, by expressing the charitable thoughts we have of them.—Fergusson.
The Uses of Suffering.—
1. They serve for trial of men, that it may appear what is hidden in their hearts.
2. They serve for the correction of things amiss in us.
3. They serve as documents and warnings to others, especially in public persons.
4. They are marks of adoption, if we be content to obey God in them.
5. They are the trodden and beaten way to the kingdom of heaven.—Perkins.
Galatians 3:5. Miracles confirmatory of the Truth.—
1. The Lord accompanied the first preaching of the gospel with the working of miracles that the truth of the doctrine might be confirmed, which being once sufficiently done, there is no further use for miracles.
2. So strong and prevalent is the spirit of error, and so weak the best in themselves to resist it, that for love to error they will quit truth, though confirmed and sealed by the saving fruits of God’s Spirit in their hearts.—Fergusson.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Galatians 3:6. Even as Abraham believed God.—Where justification is there the Spirit is, so that if the former comes by faith the latter must also.
Galatians 3:8. Preached before the gospel unto Abraham.—Thus the gospel in its essential germ is older than the law, though the full development of the former is subsequent to the latter. The promise to Abraham was an anticipation of the gospel, not only as announcing the Messiah, but also as involving the doctrine of righteousness by faith.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Galatians 3:6-9
The Abrahamic Gospel—
I. Recognised the principle that righteousness is only by faith.—“Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Galatians 3:6). The promise to Abraham contained the germ of the gospel, and was the only gospel known to pre-Christian times. Though dimly apprehending its vast import, Abraham trusted in God’s Messianic promise, and his unfaltering faith, often severely tried, was in the judgment of the gracious God imputed to him as rectitude. “In this mode of salvation there was after all nothing new. The righteousness of faith is more ancient than legalism. It is as old as Abraham. In the hoary patriarchal days as now, in the time of promise as of fulfilment, faith is the root of religion; grace invites, righteousness waits upon the hearing of faith.”
II. Was universal in its spiritual provisions.—“The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed” (Galatians 3:8). Twice is Abraham designated “the friend of God.” The Arabs still call him the friend. His image has impressed itself with singular force on the Oriental mind. He is the noblest figure of the Old Testament, surpassing Isaac in force, Jacob in purity, and both in dignity of character. His religion exhibits a heroic strength and firmness, but at the same time a large-hearted, genial humanity, an elevation and serenity of mind, to which the temper of those who boasted themselves his children was utterly opposed. Father of the Jewish race, Abraham was no Jew. He stands before us in the morning light of revelation a simple, noble, archaic type of man, true father of many nations. And his faith was the secret of the greatness which has commanded for him the reverence of four thousand years. His trust in God made him worthy to receive so immense a trust for the future of mankind (Findlay).
III. Shares its privilege and blessing with all who believe.—“They which are of faith, the same are the children of … are blessed with faithful Abraham” (Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:9). With Abraham’s faith the Gentiles inherit his blessing. They were not simply blessed in him, through his faith which received and handed down the blessing, but blessed with him. Their righteousness rests on the same principle as his. Reading the story of Abraham, we witness the bright dawn of faith, its springtime of promise and of hope. These morning hours passed away; and the sacred history shuts us in to the hard school of Mosaism, with its isolation, its mechanical routine and ritual drapery, its yoke of legal exaction ever growing more burdensome. Of all this the Church of Christ was to know nothing. It was called to enter into the labours of the legal centuries without the need of sharing their burdens. In the “Father of the Faithful” and the “Friend of God” Gentile believers were to see their exemplar, to find the warrant for that sufficiency and freedom of faith of which the natural children of Abraham unjustly strove to rob them (Findlay).
1. The gospel has an honourable antiquity.
2. Righteousness is the practical side of true religion.
3. Faith is the way to righteousness.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Galatians 3:6-9. Righteousness through Faith.
I. The divine method of blessing in past ages (Galatians 3:6).
II. Modern believers are spiritual successors of the most eminent examples of faith in ancient times (Galatians 3:7).
III. The unchanging gospel taught in Holy Scripture (Galatians 3:8).
VI. Ensures the enjoyment of promised blessings (Galatians 3:9).
Galatians 3:6-7. Imitators of Abraham’s Faith.
I. We must have knowledge of the main and principal promise touching the blessing of God in Christ, and all other promises depending on the principal; and we must know the scope and tenor of them that we be not deceived.
II. We must with Abraham believe the truth and power of God in the accomplishment of the said promises, or in the working of our vocation, justification, sanctification, glorification.
III. We must by faith obey God in all things, shutting our eyes and suffering ourselves to be led blindfold, as it were, by the word of God. Thus did Abraham in all things, even in actions against nature. But this practice is rare among us. For there are three things which prevail among us—the love of worldly honour, the love of pleasure, and the love of riches; and where these bear sway there faith takes no place.—Perkins.
Galatians 3:8-9. All Nations blessed in Abraham.—
1. The covenant of grace with Abraham extended not only to his carnal seed, but to all believers, even among the Gentiles.
2. The blessings promised to Abraham were not only temporal, but heavenly and spiritual: the temporal were often inculcated on the ancient Church, not as if they were all or the main blessings of the covenant, but as they were shadows of things heavenly.
3. The promise to Abraham contained the sum of the gospel—the glad tidings of all spiritual blessings, and that the Gentiles should have access, in the days of the gospel, to these blessings. The gospel is therefore no new doctrine, but the same in substance with that taught to Abraham and to the Church under the Old Testament.
4. Eminent privileges bestowed on particular persons do not exempt them from walking to heaven in the common pathway with others. Abraham, the father of believers, in whom all nations were blessed, enjoyed the blessing, not because of his own merit, but freely and by faith as well as others.—Fergusson.
The Abrahamic Gospel intended for All.
I. The nation of the Jews shall be called and converted to the participation of this blessing.—When and how, God knows; but it shall be done before the end of the world. If all nations be called, then the Jews.
II. That which was foretold to Abraham is verified in our eyes.—This nation and many other nations are at this day blessed in the seed of Abraham.
1. Give to God thanks and praise that we are born in these days.
2. We must amend and turn to God that we may now be partakers of the promised blessing.
3. We must bless all, do good to all, and hurt to none.
III. All men who are of Abraham’s faith shall be partakers of the same blessing with him.—God respects not the greatness of our faith so much as the truth of it.—Perkins.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Galatians 3:10. As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.—This the Scripture itself declares. It utters an anathema against all who fail to fulfil every single ordinance contained in the book of the law (Deuteronomy 27:26).
Galatians 3:13. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse.—Bought us off from our bondage and from the curse under which all lie who trust to the law. The ransom price He paid was His own precious blood (1 Peter 1:18-19). Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.—Christ’s bearing the particular curse of hanging on the tree is a sample of the general curse which He representatively bore. Not that the Jews put to death malefactors by hanging, but after having put them to death otherwise, in order to brand them with peculiar ignominy, they hung the bodies on a tree, and such malefactors were accursed by the law. The Jews in contempt called Him the hanged one. Hung between heaven and earth as though unworthy of either.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Galatians 3:10-14
The Conflict between the Law and Faith.
I. The law condemns the least violation of its enactments.—“Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things … in the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10). The law is a unity; to violate a part is to violate the whole. It is like a perfect bell, every stroke resounds through every atom of the metal. If the bell is fractured in the least degree, the dissonance is evident in every part. Law is so all-pervasive and so perfect that to break one law is to be guilty of all. It is intolerant of all imperfection, and makes no provision to prevent or repair imperfection except by a rigid obedience to every statute. If obedience could be perfect from this moment onwards, the past disobedience would not be condoned; we should be still liable to its penalties, still be under the curse. To pledge ourselves to unsinning obedience is to pledge ourselves to the impossible. All our efforts to obey law—to conform our life to the law of righteousness, the purity and beauty of which we perceive even while in a state of lawless unnature—are futile. It is like running alongside a parallel pathway into which we are perpetually trying to turn ourselves, but all in vain. We cannot escape the condemnation of the disobedient.
II. The law cannot justify man.—“But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith” (Galatians 3:11). The law reveals our sin and our utter helplessness to rid ourselves of its misery. The law forces out the disease that is spreading under the skin. Such is its task. But healing it does not bring. “The law,” says Luther, “is that which lays down what man is to do; the gospel reveals whence man is to obtain help. When I place myself in the hands of the physician, one branch of art says where the disease lies, another what course to take to get quit of it. So here. The law discovers our disease, the gospel supplies the remedy.” We become aware in critical moments that our evil desires are more powerful than the prohibition of law, and are in truth first stirred up thoroughly by the prohibition. And this disposition of our heart is the decisive point for the question, Whether then the holy law, the holy, just, and good commandment makes us holy, just, and good men? The answer to this is, and remains a most decided, No.
III. The law ignores faith.—“The law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them” (Galatians 3:12). Its dictum is do, not believe; it takes no account of faith. To grant righteousness to faith is to deny it to legal works. The two ways have different starting-points, as they lead to opposite goals. From faith one marches through God’s righteousness to blessing; from works, through self-righteousness, to the curse. In short, the legalist tries to make God believe in him. Abraham and Paul are content to believe in God. Paul puts the calm, grand image of Father Abraham before us for our pattern, in contrast with the narrow, painful, bitter spirit of Jewish legalism, inwardly self-condemned.
IV. The law, the great barrier to man’s justification, is done away in Christ.—“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law” (Galatians 3:13). Christ brought us out of the curse of the law by Himself voluntarily undergoing its penalty and submitting to the utmost indignity it imposed—hanging on a tree. It was this crowning scandal that shocked the Jewish pride and made the cross an offence to them. Once crucified, the name of Jesus would surely perish from the lips of men; no Jew would hereafter dare to profess faith in Him. This was God’s method of rescue; and all the terrors and penalties of law disappear, being absorbed in the cross of Christ. His redemption was offered to the Jew first. But not to the Jew alone, nor as a Jew. The time of release had come for all men. Abraham’s blessing, long withheld, was now to be imparted, as it had been promised, to all the tribes of the earth. In the removal of the legal curse, God comes near to men as in the ancient days. In Christ Jesus crucified, risen, reigning, a new world comes into being, which restores and surpasses the promise of the old.
V. Faith ends the conflict with law by imparting to man a superior spiritual force.—“That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14). Faith is a spiritual faculty, and its exercise is made possible by the operation of the Holy Spirit. The law of works is superseded by the higher law of the Spirit. It is in the human soul that law has its widest sweep and accomplishes its highest results. The soul can never rise higher in its experience and efforts than the law by which it is governed. The law of sin has debased and limited the soul, and only as it is united by faith to Christ and responds to the lofty calls of His law will it break away from the corruption and restraints of the law of sin and rise to the highest perfection of holiness. “In every law,” says F. W. Robertson, “there is a spirit, in every maxim a principle; and the law and the maxim are laid down for the sake of conserving the spirit and the principle which they enshrine. Man is severed from submission to the maxim because he has got allegiance to the principle. He is free from the rule and the law because he has got the spirit written in his heart.”
1. It is hopeless to attain righteousness by law.
2. Faith in Christ is the only and universal way of obedience.
3. The law is disarmed by obeying it.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Galatians 3:10-12. The Inexorability of Law.
I. The law renders no help in fulfilling its requirements, but curses the incompetent (Galatians 3:10).
II. The law, though strictly observed, is powerless to justify (Galatians 3:11).
III. The law does not admit of faith; it offers life only to the doer (Galatians 3:12),
Galatians 3:11. Man is justified by Faith alone.—One day wishing to obtain an indulgence promised by the Pope to all who should ascend on their knees what is called Pilate’s Staircase, the poor Saxon monk, Luther, was humbly creeping up those steps when he thought he heard a voice of thunder crying from the bottom of his heart, as at Wittenberg and Bologna, “The just shall live by faith!” He rises in amazement, he shudders at himself, he is ashamed of seeing to what a depth superstition had plunged him. He flies from the scene of his folly. It was in these words God then said, “Let there be light, and there was light.”—D’Aubigné.
Galatians 3:12. The Difference between the Law and the Gospel.
I. The law promises life to him who performs perfect obedience, and that for his works. The gospel promises life to him who doeth nothing in the cause of his salvation, but only believes in Christ; and it promises salvation to him who believeth, yet not for his faith or for any works else, but for the merit of Christ. The law then requires doing to salvation, and the gospel believing and nothing else.
II. The law does not teach true repentance, neither is it any cause of it, but only an occasion. The gospel only prescribes repentance and the practice of it, yet only as it is a fruit of our faith and as it is the way to salvation.
III. The law requires faith in God, which is to put our affiance in Him. The gospel requires faith in Christ, the Mediator God-man; and this faith the law never knew.
IV. The promises of the gospel are not made to the work, but to the worker; and to the worker not for his work, but for Christ’s sake, according to his work.
V. The gospel considers not faith as a virtue or work, but as an instrument, or hand, to apprehend Christ. Faith does not cause or procure our salvation, but as the beggar’s hand it receives it, being wholly wrought and given of God.
VI. This distinction of the law and the gospel must be observed carefully, as the two have been often confounded. It has been erroneously stated that the law of Moses, written in tables of stone, is the law; the same law of Moses, written in the hearts of men by the Holy Ghost, is the gospel. But I say again that the law written in our hearts is still the law of Moses. This oversight in mistaking the distinction of the law and the gospel is and has been the ruin of the gospel.—Perkins.
Galatians 3:13-14. Redemption and its Issues.
I. Redemption was effected by Christ enduring the penalty of violated law (Galatians 3:13).
II. Redemption by Christ has brought blessing to all nations.—“That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ” (Galatians 3:14).
III. The spiritual results of redemption are realised only by faith.—“That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14).
Galatians 3:13. The Curse and Sentence of the Law lies on record against sinners, it puts in its demand against our acquittance, and lays an obligation upon us unto punishment. God will not reject nor destroy His law. Unless it be answered, there is no acceptance for sinners. Christ answered the curse of the law when He was made a curse for us, and so became, as to the obedience of the law, the end of the law for righteousness to them that believe. And as to the penalty that it threatened, He bore it, removed it, and took it out of the way. So hath He made way for forgiveness through the very heart of the law; it hath not one word to speak against the pardon of those who believe.—John Owen.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Galatians 3:17. The covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law cannot disannul.—From the recognised inviolability of a human covenant (Galatians 3:15), the apostle argues the impossibility of violating the divine covenant. The law cannot set aside the promise.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Galatians 3:15-18
The Divine Covenant of Promise—
I. Is less susceptible of violation than any human covenant.—“Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed [approved], no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto” (Galatians 3:15). Common equity demands that a contract made between man and man is thoroughly binding, and should be rigidly observed; and the civil law lends all its force to maintain the integrity of its clauses. How much more certain it is that the divine covenant shall be faithfully upheld. If it is likely that a human covenant will not be interfered with, it is less likely the divine covenant will be changed. Yet even a human covenant may fail; the divine covenant never. It is based on the divine word which cannot fail, and its validity is pledged by the incorruptibility of the divine character (Malachi 3:6).
II. Is explicit in defining the channel of its fulfilment.—“Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made; … to thy seed, which is Christ” (Galatians 3:16). The promise is in the plural because the same promise was often repeated (Genesis 12:3; Genesis 12:7; Genesis 15:5; Genesis 15:18; Genesis 17:7; Genesis 22:18), and because it involved many things—earthly blessings to the literal children of Abraham in Canaan, and spiritual and heavenly blessings to his spiritual children; and both promised to Christ—the Seed and representative Head of the literal and spiritual Israel alike. Therefore the promise that in him “all families of the earth shall be blessed” joins in this one Seed—Christ—Jew and Gentile, as fellow-heirs on the same terms of acceptability—by grace through faith; not to some by promise, to others by the law, but to all alike, circumcised and uncircumcised, constituting but one seed in Christ. The law, on the other hand, contemplates the Jews and Gentiles as distinct seeds. God makes a covenant, but it is one of promise; whereas the law is a covenant of works. God makes His covenant of promise with the one Seed—Christ—and embraces others only as they are identified with and represented by Him (Fausset).
III. Cannot be set aside by the law which was a subsequent revelation.—“The covenant, … the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul” (Galatians 3:17). The promise to Abraham was a prior settlement, and must take precedence, not only in time but also in authority, of the Mosaic law. It was a bold stroke of the apostle to thus shatter the supremacy of Mosaism; but the appeal to antiquity was an argument the most prejudiced Jew was bound to respect. “The law of Moses has its rights; it must be taken into account as well as the promise to Abraham. True; but it has no power to cancel or restrict the promise, older by four centuries and a half. The later must be adjusted to the earlier dispensation, the law interpreted by the promise. God has not made two testaments—the one solemnly committed to the faith and hope of mankind, only to be retracted and substituted by something of a different stamp. He could not thus stultify Himself. And we must not apply the Mosaic enactments, addressed to a single people, in such a way as to neutralise the original provisions made for the race at large. Our human instincts of good faith, our reverence for public compacts and established rights, forbid our allowing the law of Moses to trench upon the inheritance assured to mankind in the covenant of Abraham” (Findlay).
IV. Imposed no conditions of legal obedience.—“If the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise” (Galatians 3:18). The law is a system of conditions—so much advantage to be gained by so much work done. This is all very well as a general principle. But the promise of God is based on a very different ground. It is an act of free, sovereign grace, engaging to confer certain blessings without demanding anything more from the recipient than faith, which is just the will to receive. The law imposes obligations man is incompetent to meet. The promise offers blessings all men need and all may accept. It simply asks the acceptance of the blessings by a submissive and trustful heart. The demands of the law are met and the provisions of the covenant of promise enjoyed by an act of faith.
1. God has a sovereign right to give or withhold blessing.
2. The divine covenant of promise is incapable of violation.
3. Faith in God is the simplest and sublimest method of obedience.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Galatians 3:15-18. The Promise a Covenant confirmed.
I. The promises made to Abraham are first made to Christ, and then in Christ to all that believe in Him.—
1. Learn the difference of the promises of the law and the gospel. The promises of the law are directed and made to the person of every man particularly; the promises of the gospel are first directed and made to Christ, and then by consequent to them that are by faith ingrafted into Christ.
2. We learn to acknowledge the communion that is between Christ and us. Christ died upon the cross, not as a private person, but as a public person representing His people. All died in Him, and with Him; in the same manner they must rise with Him to life.
3. Here is comfort against the consideration of our unworthiness. There is dignity and worthiness sufficient in Him. Our salvation stands in this, not that we know and apprehend Him, but that He knows and apprehends us first of all.
II. The promise made to Abraham was a covenant confirmed by oath.—Abraham in the first making and in the confirmation thereof must be considered as a public person representing all the faithful. Here we see God’s goodness. We are bound simply to believe His bare word; yet in regard of our weakness He ratifies His promise by oath, that there might be no occasion of unbelief. What can we more require of Him?
III. If the promise might be disannulled, the law could not do it.—
1. The promise, or covenant, was made with Abraham, and continued by God four hundred and thirty years before the law was given.
2. If the law abolish the promise, then the inheritance must come by the law. But that cannot be. If the inheritance of eternal life be by the law, it is no more by the promise. But it is by the promise, because God gave it unto Abraham freely by promise; therefore it comes not by the law. This giving was no private but a public donation. That which was given to Abraham was in him given to all that should believe as he did.—Perkins.
Galatians 3:15-17. Divine and Human Covenants.
I. A covenant, as between man and man, is honourably binding (Galatians 3:15).
II. The divine covenant made to Abraham ensures the fulfilment of promises to all who believe as Abraham did (Galatians 3:16).
III. The law cannot abrogate the divine covenant of promise (Galatians 3:17).
Galatians 3:18. Law and Promise.—
1. So subtle is the spirit of error that it will seem to cede somewhat to truth, intending to prejudice the truth more than if it had ceded nothing. The opposers of justification by faith did sometimes give faith some place in justification, and pleaded for a joint influence of works and faith, of law and promise.
2. The state of grace here and glory hereafter is the inheritance of the Lord’s people, of which the land of Canaan was a type. There are only two ways of attaining a right to this inheritance—one by law, the other by promise.
3. There can be no mixture of these two, so that a right to heaven should be obtained partly by the merit of works and partly by faith in the promise. The only way of attaining it is by God’s free gift, without the merit of works.—Fergusson.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Galatians 3:19. Wherefore then serveth the law?—As it is of no avail for justification, is it either useless or contrary to the covenant of God? It was added because of transgressions.—To bring out into clearer view the transgressions of the law; to make men more fully conscious of their sins, by being perceived as transgressions of the law, and so make them long for the promised Saviour. It was ordained by angels in the hand of a Mediator.—As instrumental enactors of the law. In the giving of the law the angels were representatives of God; Moses, as mediator, represented the people.
Galatians 3:20. Now a Mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.—The very idea of mediation supposes two persons at least, between whom the mediation is carried on. The law then is of the nature of a contract between two parties—God on the one hand, and the Jewish people on the other. It is only valid so long as both parties fulfil the terms of the contract. It is therefore contingent and not absolute. Unlike the law, the promise is absolute and unconditional. It depends on the sole decree of God. There are not two contracting parties. There is nothing of the nature of a stipulation. The Giver is everything, the recipient nothing (Lightfoot).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Galatians 3:19-20
The Inferiority of the Law.
I. It did not justify but condemn the sinner by revealing his sin.—“It was added because of transgressions” (Galatians 3:19). Law has no remedial efficacy. It reveals and emphasises the fact of sin. It has no terror while it is obeyed. When it is violated then it thunders, and with pitiless severity terrifies the conscience and inflicts unsparing punishment. There is no strain of mercy in its voice, or in the inflexibility of its methods. It surrenders the condemned to an anguish from which it offers no means of escape. It is said that, after the murder of Darnley, some of the wretches who were concerned in it were found wandering about the streets of Edinburgh crying penitently and lamentably for vengeance on those who had caused them to shed innocent blood.
II. It was temporary in its operation.—“Till the seed should come to whom the promise was made” (Galatians 3:19). The work of the law was preparatory and educative. Centuries rolled away and the promised Seed was long in coming, and it seemed as if the world must remain for ever under the tutelage of the law. All the time the law was doing its work. God was long in fulfilling His promise because man was so slow to learn. When Christ, the promised Seed, appeared, the law was superseded. Its work was done. The preparatory gave place to the permanent; the reign of law was displaced by the reign of grace. The claims of the law were discharged once for all.
III. Its revelation was through intermediaries.—“It was ordained by angels in the hand of a Mediator” (Galatians 3:19). In the Jewish estimation the administration of the law by angels enhanced its splendour, and the pomp and ceremony with which Moses made known the will and character of Jehovah added to the impressiveness and superiority of the law. In the Christian view these very methods were evidences of defect and inferiority. The revelations of God by the law were veiled and intermediate; the revelation by grace is direct and immediate. Under the law God was a distant and obscured personality, and the people unfit to enter His sacred presence; by the gospel God is brought near to man, and permitted to bask in the radiance of His revealed glory, without the intervention of a human mediator. The law, with its elaborate ceremonial and multiplied exactions, is a barrier between the soul and God.
IV. It was contingent, not absolute, in its primal terms.—“Now a Mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one” (Galatians 3:20). Where a mediator is necessary unity is wanting—not simply in a numerical but in a moral sense, as matter of feeling and of aim. There are separate interests, discordant views, to be consulted. This was true of Mosaism. It was not the absolute religion. The theocratic legislation of the Pentateuch is lacking in the unity and consistency of a perfect revelation. Its disclosures of God were refracted in a manifest degree by the atmosphere through which they passed. In the promise God spoke immediately and for Himself. The man of Abraham’s faith sees God in His unity. The legalist gets his religion at second-hand, mixed with undivine elements. He projects on the divine image confusing shadows of human imperfection (Findlay).
1. The law is powerless to remove the sin it exposes.
2. The law had the defect of all preparatory dispensations.
3. The law imposes conditions it does not help to fulfil.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Galatians 3:19-20. The Law is for Transgressors.
I. We are taught to examine and search our hearts by the law of God.—
1. When any sin is forbidden in any commandment of the law, under it all sins of the same kind are forbidden, all causes of them and all occasions.
2. A commandment negative includes the affirmative, and binds us not only to abstain from evil, but also to do the contrary good.
3. Every commandment must be understood with a curse annexed to it, though the curse be not expressed.
4. We must especially examine ourselves by the first and last commandments. The first forbids the first motions of our hearts against God, and the last forbids the first motions of our hearts against our neighbour.
II. The law of God to be reverenced.—
1. Because it was ordained or delivered by angels.
2. We are to fear to break the least commandment, because the angels observe the keepers and breakers of it, and are ready to witness against them that offend.
3. If thou offend and break the law, repent with speed, for that is the desired joy of angels.
4. If thou sin and repent not, look for shame and confusion before God and His angels.
III. God, the Author and Source of law, is one.—
1. He is unchangeable.
2. His unchangeableness the foundation of our comfort.
3. We should be unchangeable in faith, hope, love, good counsels, honest promises, and in the maintenance of true religion.—Perkins.
Galatians 3:19. The Use of the Law.
I. It is a standard to measure our defects.
II. It is a sword to pierce our conscience.
III. It is a seal to certify that we are in the way of grace.—Tholuck.
No Trust in Legal Prescriptions.—St. Paul, with the sledge-hammer force of his direct and impassioned dialectics, shattered all possibility of trusting in legal prescriptions, and demonstrated that the law was no longer obligatory on Gentiles. He had shown that the distinction between clean and unclean meats was to the enlightened conscience a matter of indifference, that circumcision was nothing better than a physical mutilation, that ceremonialism was a yoke with which the free, converted Gentile had nothing to do, that we are saved by faith and not by works, that the law was a dispensation of wrath and menace introduced for the sake of transgressions, that so far from being, as all the Rabbis asserted, the one thing on account of which the universe had been created, the Mosaic code only possessed a transitory, subordinate, and intermediate character, coming in, as it were in a secondary way, between the promise to Abraham and the fulfilment of that promise in the gospel of Christ.—Dean Farrar.
The Use of the Law under the Gospel.
I. The law never was intended to supersede the gospel as a means of life.
II. The most perfect edition of the gospel, so far from having abolished the least tittle of the moral law, has established it.
III. The use of the law.—
1. To constitute probation.
2. The law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.
3. The law serves to give beauty and symmetry to the hidden man of the heart.
4. To vindicate the conduct of our Judge in dooming the impenitent to eternal death.
1. Since the law as a covenant has been superseded by a covenant better adapted to our guilty and helpless circumstances, let us make a proper use of the mercy, acquaint ourselves with its demands, and abound in the holiness it enjoins.
2. Mark those who set aside the law, shun their company, and pray for their repentance.—Iota.
Galatians 3:20. The Unity of God and His Purpose regarding Man.—
1. The covenant with Adam in his innocency was immediate, no mediator intervening to make them one; there was no disagreement betwixt them because of sin.
2. No man can attain heaven, or reap any advantage, except he be perfectly holy. God made no covenant of works with men on Mount Sinai, nor could they have reaped benefit from such a covenant as they were a sinful people, standing in need of a midsman betwixt God and them.
3. The Lord in all His dispensations is always one, and like to Himself without shadow of turning. If any plead a right to heaven by the merit of their works, God will abate nothing of what He did once prescribe and require of man in the covenant of works.—Fergusson.
An Effectual Mediator.—Edward III., after defeating Philip of France at Creçy, laid siege to Calais, which, after an obstinate resistance of a year, was taken. He offered to spare the lives of the inhabitants on condition that six of their principal citizens should be delivered up to him, with halters round their necks, to be immediately executed. When these terms were announced the rulers of the town came together, and the question was proposed, “Who will offer himself as an atonement for the city? Who will imitate Christ who gave Himself for the salvation of men?” The number was soon made up. On reaching the English camp they were received by the soldiers of Edward with every mark of commiseration. They appeared before the king. “Are these the principal inhabitants of Calais?” he inquired sternly. “Of France, my lord,” they replied. “Lead them to execution.” At this moment the queen arrived. She was informed of the punishment about to be inflicted on the six victims. She hastened to the king and pleaded for their pardon. At first he sternly refused, but her earnestness conquered, and the king yielded. When we submit our hearts as captives to the Father, and feel that we are condemned and lost, we have an effectual Mediator who stays the hand of justice.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Galatians 3:22. The Scripture hath concluded all under sin.—The written letter was needed so as permanently to convict man of disobedience to God’s command. He is shut up under condemnation as in a prison.
Galatians 3:24. The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ.—As a tutor, checking our sinful propensities, making the consciousness of the sinful principle more vivid, and showing the need of forgiveness and freedom from the bondage of sin.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Galatians 3:21-25
The True Use of the Law—
I. Was not intended to bestow spiritual life.—“If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law” (Galatians 3:21). The law was not against the promises. It was a divine method in dealing with man, and one divine method never conflicts with another. It was intended to mediate between the promise and its fulfilment. It is not the enemy but the minister of grace. It did not profess to bestow spiritual life; but in its sacrifices and oblations pointed to the coming Christ who is “the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:4).
II. Was to reveal the universal domination of sin.—“The Scripture hath concluded all under sin” (Galatians 3:22). The Bible from the beginning and throughout its course, in its unvarying teaching, makes the world one vast prison-house, with the law for gaoler, and mankind held fast in chains of sin, condemned, and waiting for the punishment of death. Its perpetual refrain is, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Its impeachment covers the whole realm of human life, thought, and desire. “Every human life,” says Martensen, “that has not yet become a partaker of redemption is a life under the law, in opposition to the life under grace. The law hovers over his life as an unfulfilled requirement; and, in the depth of his own being, remains as an indismissible but unsatisfied and unexpiated claim on him, which characterises such a human existence as sinful and guilt-laden.”
III. Was to teach the absolute necessity of faith in order to escape its condemnation.—“But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed” (Galatians 3:23). The law was all the while standing guard over its subjects, watching and checking every attempt to escape, but intending to hand them over in due time to the charge of faith. The law posts its ordinances, like so many sentinels, round the prisoner’s cell. The cordon is complete. He tries again and again to break out; the iron circle will not yield. But deliverance will yet be his. The day of faith approaches. It dawned long ago in Abraham’s promise. Even now its light shines into his dungeon, and he hears the word of Jesus, “Thy sins are forgiven thee; go in peace.” Law, the stern gaoler, has after all been a good friend if it has reserved him for this. It prevents the sinner escaping to a futile and illusive freedom (Findlay).
IV. Was to act as a moral tutor to train us to the maturity and higher freedom of a personal faith in Christ.—“Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ,” etc. (Galatians 3:24-25). The schoolmaster, or pedagogue, among the Greeks meant a faithful servant entrusted with the care of the boy from childhood, to keep him from evil, physical and moral, and accompany him to his amusements and studies. “If then the law is a pedagogue,” says Chrysostom, “it is not hostile to grace, but its fellow-worker; but should it continue to hold us fast when grace has come, then it would be hostile.” Judaism was an education for Christianity. It trained the childhood of the race. It humbled and distressed the soul with the consciousness of sin. It revealed the utter inadequacy of all its provisions to justify. It brought the despairing soul to Christ, and showed that the true way to righteousness was by personal faith in Him.
1. Law is the revealer of sin.
2. Law demands universal righteousness.
3. Law is a training for faith.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Galatians 3:21-22. The Law not contrary to the Divine Promise.—
1. It is the way of some to make one Scripture contradict another, yet their bold allegations will be found always false, and truth to be ever most consonant and never contrary to itself.
2. So exact and full is the righteousness required in order to life, and so far short do all mankind come of it, that no works of our own, done in obedience to the law, can amount to that righteousness.
3. Though all men by nature be under sin, it is a matter of no small difficulty to convince any man of it. The work of the law, accusing, convincing, or condemning the sinner, is compared to the work of a judge detaining a malefactor in prison which is not effectuated but with force and violence.
4. The law by its threatenings prepares and necessitates the soul to embrace salvation by faith in the Christ revealed in the promise.—Fergusson.
Galatians 3:22. The Great Prison; or, All concluded under Sin.—
1. Satan does indeed draw and drive men into sin—this is the accursed work of his restless, sabbathless life; and when he has got them there he binds them fast, and will not let them flee from his toils. He builds a high wall of sin all round them so that they shall not look over it into the goodly land beyond, and here he shuts them up together, sinner with sinner, a never-ending ghastly multitude, that they may encourage and pamper each other in wickedness, and that no example, no voice of holiness, may ever reach and startle them. But God never drove, never drew, any man into sin. He is calling us to come out from the deadly land, from the loathsome, plague-breathing dungeon. So when the Scripture concludes, or shuts all men up together under sin, it is not by driving them into sin, but for the sake of calling them out of it.
2. With all the light of the Scriptures shining around us, with the law of God ever sounding in our ears, and the life of Christ set continually before us, how prone are we to forget our sinfulness, to turn away from the thought of it, to fancy we are as good as we need be, and that, though we might certainly be better, yet it does not matter much! How apt are we still to forget that we are concluded under sin, to forget that we are shut up in a prison! Although the souls of so many millions are lying around us, bloated with the poison of sin, how tardily do we acknowledge that the poison by which they perished must also be deadly to us!
3. Suppose you were to be carried before an earthly court of justice, and that one sweeping accusation were to be brought against you; suppose you were found guilty, and the excuse you set up were the complete proof of your guilt,—what would follow? The judge would straightway pass sentence upon you, and you would be condemned to suffer punishment according to the measure of your offence. And must we not expect that the course of things should be the very same when you are carried before a heavenly court of justice?
4. When a man’s eyes are opened to see the prison in which he is shut up, to see and feel the chains that are fast bound round his soul and have eaten into it; when he has learnt to see and know that the pleasures, whatever they may be, of sin are only, like the flesh-pots of Egypt, intoxicating drugs, given to him to deprive him of all sense of his captivity,—then will he long for a deliverer, rejoice on hearing of his approach, hail him when he comes in view, and follow him whithersoever he may lead. As unbelief is the one great universal sin, in which all mankind are concluded, as it is only from having let slip our faith in God that we have yielded our hearts to the temptations of the world and given ourselves up to its idolatries, so it is only through faith that we can be brought back to God—that we can receive the promise given to those who believe.—J. C. Hare.
Galatians 3:23. “Shut up unto the faith.” The Reasonableness of Faith.—The mode of conception is military. The law is made to act the part of a sentry, guarding every avenue but one, and that one leads those, who are compelled to take it, to the faith of the gospel. Out of the leading varieties of taste and sentiment which obtain in the present age we may collect something which may be turned into an instrument of conviction for reclaiming men from their delusions and shutting them up to the faith.
I. There is the school of natural religion.—It is founded on the competency of the human mind to know God by the exercise of its own faculties, to clothe Him in the attributes of its own demonstration, to serve Him by a worship and a law of its own discovery, and to assign to Him a mode of procedure in the administration of this vast universe upon the strength and plausibility of its own theories. They recognise the judicial government of God over moral and accountable creatures. They hold there is a law. One step more, and they are fairly shut up to the faith. That law has been violated.
II. There is the school of classical morality.—It differs from the former school in one leading particular. It does not carry in its speculations so distinct and positive a reference to the Supreme Being. Our duties to God are viewed as a species of moral accomplishment, the effect of which is to exalt and embellish the individual. We ask them to look at man as he is, and compare him with man as they would have him to be. If they find that he falls miserably short of their ideal standard of excellence, what is this but making a principle of their own the instrument of shutting them up unto the faith of the gospel, or at least shutting them up unto one of the most peculiar of its doctrines, the depravity of our nature, or the dismal ravage which the power of sin has made upon the moral constitution of the species? This depravity the gospel proposes to do away.
III. There is the school of fine feeling and poetical sentiment.—It differs from the school of morality in this—the one makes virtue its idol because of its rectitude, the other makes virtue its idol because of its beauty, and the process of reasoning by which they are shut up unto the faith is the same in both. However much we may love perfection and aspire after it, yet there is some want, some disease, in the constitution of man which prevents his attainment of it, that there is a feebleness of principle about him, that the energy of his practice does not correspond to the fair promises of his fancy, and however much he may delight in an ideal scene of virtue and moral excellence, there is some lurking malignity in his constitution which, without the operation of that mighty power revealed to us in the gospel, makes it vain to wish and hopeless to aspire after it.—Dr. Thomas Chalmers.
Galatians 3:24-25. The Law our Schoolmaster.—There was a time when God put His world under a schoolmaster; then it would have been preposterous to apply faith. There is a time when a larger spirit has come, and then it would be going back to use law.
I. The uses of restraint in the heart’s education.—
1. The first use of law is to restrain from open violence. It is necessary for those who feel the inclination to evil, and so long as the inclination remains so far must a man be under law. Imagine a governor amidst a population of convicts trusting to high principle. Imagine a parent having no fixed hours, no law in his household, no punishment for evil. There is a morbid feeling against punishment; but it is God’s method.
2. The second use of restraint is to show the inward force of evil.—A steam-engine at work in a manufactory is so quiet and gentle that a child might put it back. But interpose a bar of iron many inches thick, and it cuts through as if it were so much leather. Introduce a human limb—it whirls round, and the form of man is in one moment a bleeding, mangled, shapeless mass. It is restraint that manifests this unsuspected power. In the same way law discovers the strength of evil in our hearts.
3. The third use is to form habits of obedience.—In that profession which is Specially one of obedience—the military profession—you cannot mistake the imparted type of character. Immediate, prompt obedience, no questioning “why?” Hence comes their decision of character. Hence, too, their happiness. Would you have your child happy, decided, manly? Teach him to obey. It is an error to teach a child to act on reason, or to expect reasons why a command is given. Better it is that he should obey a mistaken order than be taught to see that it is mistaken. A parent must be master in his own house.
4. The fourth use is to form habits of faith.—As Judaism was a system calculated to nurture habits of obedience, so was it one which nourished the temper of faith. All education begins with faith. The child does not know the use of the alphabet, but he trusts. The boy beginning mathematics takes on trust what he sees no use in. The child has to take parental wisdom for granted. Happy the child that goes on believing that nothing is wiser, better, greater, than his father! Blessed spirit of confiding trust which is to be transferred to God.
II. The time when restraint may be laid aside.—
1. When self-command is obtained. Some of us surely there are who have got beyond childish meanness: we could not be mean; restraint is no longer needed; we are beyond the schoolmaster. Some of us there are who have no inclination to intemperance; childish excess in eating and drinking exists no longer. Some of us there are who no longer love indolence. We have advanced beyond it. The law may be taken away, for we are free from law. True Christian liberty is this—self-command, to have been brought to Christ, to do right and love right, without a law of compulsion to school into doing it.
2. When the state of justification by faith has been attained.—There are two states of justification—by the law and by faith. Justification by the law implies a scrupulous and accurate performance of minute acts of obedience in every particular; justification by faith is acceptance with God, not because a man is perfect, but because he does all in a trusting, large, generous spirit, actuated by a desire to please God. In Christianity there are few or no definite laws—all men are left to themselves.
3. Restraint must be laid aside when the time of faith has come, whether faith itself have come or not.—It is so in academical education. We may have attained the full intellectual comprehension of the gospel, but religious goodness has not kept pace with it, and the man wakes to conviction that the gospel is a name and the powers of the world to come are not in him. You cannot put him to school again. Fear will not produce goodness. Forms will not give reverence. System will not confer freedom. Therefore the work of childhood and youth must be done while we are young, when the education is not too late.—F. W. Robertson.
Galatians 3:24. The Law preparing for Christ.
I. The law led men to Christ by foreshadowing Him.—This was true of the ceremonial part of it. The ceremonies meant more than the general duty of offering to God praise and sacrifice, since this might have been secured by much simpler rites. What was the meaning of the solemn and touching observance of the Jewish day of atonement? We know that what passed in that old earthly sanctuary was from first to last a shadow of the majestic self-oblation of the true High Priest of Christendom, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Each ceremony was felt to have some meaning beyond the time then present, and so it fostered an expectant habit of mind; and as the ages passed these expectations thus created converged more and more towards a coming Messiah, and in a subordinate but real way the ceremonial law did its part in leading the nation to the school of Christ.
II. By creating in man’s conscience a sense of want which Christ alone could relieve.—This was the work of the moral law, of every moral precept in the books of Moses, but especially of those most sacred and authoritative precepts which we know as the ten commandments. So far from furnishing man with a real righteousness, so far from making him such as he should be, correspondent to the true ideal of his nature, the law only inflicted on every conscience that was not fatally benumbed a depressing and overwhelming conviction that righteousness, at least in the way of legal obedience, was a thing impossible. And this conviction of itself prepared men for a righteousness which should be not the product of human efforts, but a gift from heaven—a righteousness to be attained by the adhesion of faith to the perfect moral Being, Jesus Christ, so that the believer’s life becomes incorporate with His.
III. By putting men under a discipline which trained them for Christ.—What is the divine plan for training, whether men or nations? Is it not this—to begin with rule and to end with principle, to begin with law and to end with faith, to begin with Moses and to end with Christ? God began with rule. He gave the Mosaic law, and the moral parts of that law being also laws of God’s own essential nature could not possibly be abrogated; but as rules of life the ten commandments were only a preparation for something beyond them. In the Christian revelation God says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” When you have done this, and He on His part has by His Spirit infused into you His divine life so that you are one with Him, you will not depend any longer mainly upon rules of conduct. Justification by faith is so far from being moral anarchy that it is the absorption of rule into the higher life of principle. In the experience of the soul faith corresponds to the empire of principle in the growth of individual character and in the development of national life, while the law answers to that elementary stage in which outward rules are not yet absorbed into principle.—H. P. Liddon.
The Law a Schoolmaster.
I. The Jewish religion brought men to Christ by the light, the constraining force, of prophecy.—First a human deliverance of some kind, then a personal Saviour, is announced. He was exactly what prophecy had foretold. He Himself appealed to prophecy as warranting His claims.
II. By that ceremonial law which formed so important a part of it.—The Jewish ceremonial pointed to Christ and His redemptive work from first to last. The epistle to the Hebrews was written to show this—that the ceremonial law was far from being a final and complete rule of life and worship, did but prefigure blessings that were to follow it, that it was a tutor to lead men to the school of Christ.
III. By creating a sense of moral need that Christ alone could satisfy.—The moral law—God’s essential, indestructible moral nature in its relation to human life, thrown for practical purposes into the form of commandments—is essentially, necessarily beyond criticism; but when given to sinful man it does, but without grace, discover a want which it cannot satisfy. It enhanced the acting sense of unpardoned sin before a holy God. It convinced man of his moral weakness, as well as of his guilt, of his inability without the strengthening grace of Christ ever to obey it.
1. We see a test of all religious privileges or gifts: Do they or do they not lead souls to Christ?
2. Observe the religious use of all law—to teach man to know his weakness and to throw himself on a higher power for pardon and strength.
3. We see the exceeding preciousness of Christ’s gospel—the matchless value of that faith which lives in the heart of the Church of God.—H. P. Liddon.
The Progress of Revelation.
I. The law was our schoolmaster as giving precepts in which principles were involved but not expressly taught.
II. As teaching inadequate and not perfect duties—a part instead of the whole, which was to develop into the whole. Examples—the institution of the Temple worship; the observance of the Sabbath; the third commandment.
1. Revelation is education.
2. Revelation is progressive.
3. The training of the character in God’s revelation has always preceded the illumination of the intellect.—F. W. Robertson.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Galatians 3:26. Ye are all the children of God.—No longer children requiring a tutor, but sons emancipated and walking at liberty.
Galatians 3:28. Ye are all one in Christ Jesus.—No class privileged above another, as the Jews under the law had been above the Gentiles. Difference of sex makes no difference in Christian privileges. But under the law the male sex had great privileges.
Galatians 3:29. If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs.—Christ is Abraham’s seed, and all who are baptised into Christ, put on Christ (Galatians 3:27), and are one in Christ (Galatians 3:28), are children entitled to the inheritance of promise.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Galatians 3:26-29
The Dignity of Sonship with God—
I. Enjoyed by all who believe in Christ.—“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26). Faith in Christ emancipates the soul from the trammels and inferior status of the tutorial training, and lifts it to the higher and more perfect relationship of a free son of God. The believer is no longer a pupil, subject to the surveillance and restrictions of the pedagogue; but a son, enjoying immediate and constant intercourse with the Father and all the privileges and dignities of a wider freedom. The higher relation excludes the lower; an advance has been made that leaves the old life for ever behind. The life now entered upon is a life of faith, which is a superior and totally different order of things from the suppressive domination of the law.
II. Is to be invested with the character of Christ.—“For as many as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). For if Christ is Son of God, and thou hast put on Him, having the Son in thyself and being made like to Him, thou wast brought into one kindred and one form of being with Him (Chrysostom). To be baptised into Christ is not the mere mechanical observance of the rite of baptism; the rite is the recognition and public avowal of the exercise of faith in Christ. In the Pauline vocabulary baptised is synonymous with believing. Faith invests the soul with Christ, and joyfully appropriates the estate and endowments of the filial relationship. Baptism by its very form—the normal and most expressive form of primitive baptism, the descent into and rising from the symbolic waters—pictured the soul’s death with Christ, its burial and its resurrection in Him, its separation from the life of sin, and entrance upon the new career of a regenerated child of God (Romans 6:3-14).
III. Implies such a complete union with Christ as to abolish all secondary distinctions.—“For there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). All distinctions of nationality, social status, and sex—necessary as they may be in the worldly life—disappear in the blending of human souls in the loftier relationship of sons of God. The gospel is universal in its range and provisions, and raises all who believe in Christ to a higher level than man could ever reach under the Mosaic regimen. To add circumcision to faith would be not to rise but to sink from the state of sons to that of serfs. Christ is the central bond of unity to the whole human race; faith in Him is the realisation by the individual of the honours and raptures of that unity.
IV. Is to be entitled to the inheritance of joint heirship with Christ.—“If ye be Christ’s, then are ye … heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). In Christ the lineal descent from David becomes extinct. He died without posterity. But He lives and reigns over a vaster territory than David ever knew; and all who are of His spiritual seed, Jew or Gentile, share with Him the splendours of the inheritance provided by the Father. Here the soul reaches its supreme glory and joy. In Worcester Cathedral there is a slab with just one doleful word on it as a record of the dead buried beneath. That word is Miserrimus. No name, no date; nothing more of the dead than just this one word to say he who lay there was or is most miserable. Surely he had missed the way home to the Father’s house and the Father’s love, else why this sad record? But in the Catacombs at Rome there is one stone recently found inscribed with the single word Felicissima. No name, no date again, but a word to express that the dead Christian sister was most happy. Most happy; why? Because she had found the Father’s house and love, and that peace which the storms of life, the persecutions of a hostile world, and the light afflictions of time could neither give nor take away.
1. Faith confers higher privileges than the law.
2. Faith in Christ admits the soul into sonship with God.
3. The sons of God share in the fulness of the Christly inheritance.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Galatians 3:26-29. Baptism.
I. The doctrine of Rome.—Christ’s merits are instrumentally applied by baptism; original sin is removed by a change of nature; a new character is imparted to the soul; a germinal principle or seed of life is miraculously given; and all this in virtue, not of any condition in the recipient, nor of any condition except that of the due performance of the rite. The objections to this doctrine are:
1. It assures baptism to be not the testimony to a fact, but the fact itself. Baptism proclaims the child of God; the Romanist says it creates him.
2. It is materialism of the grossest kind.
3. It makes Christian life a struggle for something that is lost, instead of a progress to something that lies before.
II. The doctrine of modern Calvinism.—Baptism admits all into the visible Church, but into the invisible Church only a special few. The real benefit of baptism only belongs to the elect. With respect to others, to predicate of them regeneration in the highest sense is at best an ecclesiastical fiction, said in the judgment of charity. You are not God’s child until you become such consciously. On this we remark:
1. This judgment of charity ends at the baptismal font.
2. This view is identical with the Roman one in this respect—that it creates the fact instead of testifying to it.
3. Is pernicious in its results in the matter of education.
III. The doctrine of the Bible.—Man is God’s child, and the sin of the man consists in perpetually living as if it were false. To be a son of God is one thing; to know that you are and call Him Father is another. Baptism authoritatively reveals and pledges to the individual that which is true of the race.
1. This view prevents exclusiveness and spiritual pride.
2. Protests against the notion of our being separate units in the divine life.
3. Sanctifies materialism.—F. W. Robertson.
Galatians 3:26. The Children of God.
We are all children.
We are all children of God.
We are all children of God through faith.
We are all children of God in Christ Jesus.—Dr. Beet.
I. If thou be God’s child, surely He will provide all things necessary for soul and body.—Our care must be to do the duty that belongs to us; when this is done our care is ended. They who drown themselves in worldly cares live like fatherless children.
II. In that we are children we have liberty to come into the presence of God.
III. Nothing shall hurt those who are the children of God.
IV. Walk worthy of your profession and calling.—Be not vassals of sin and Satan; carry yourselves as King’s sons.
V. Our care must be to resemble Christ.
VI. We must have a desire and love to the word of God that we may grow by it.
VII. We must have afflictions, if we be God’s children, for He corrects all His children.—Perkins.
Galatians 3:27-28. The Christly Character—
I. Acquired by a spiritual union with Christ.—“Baptised into Christ.”
II. Is a complete investiture with Christ.—“Have put on Christ.”
III. Is a union with Christ that absorbs all conventional distinctions (Galatians 3:28).
Galatians 3:27. Profession without Hypocrisy.—Hypocrisy is professing without practising. Men profess without feeling and doing, or are hypocrites in nothing so much as in their prayers. Let a man set his heart upon learning to pray and strive to learn, and no failures he may continue to make in his manner of praying are sufficient to cast him from God’s favour. Let him but be in earnest, striving to master his thoughts and to be serious, and all the guilt of his incidental failings will be washed away in his Lord’s blood. We profess to be saints, to be guided by the highest principles, and to be ruled by the Spirit of God. We have long ago promised to believe and obey. It is true we cannot do these things aright—nay, even with God’s help we fall short of duty. Nevertheless we must not cease to profess. There is nothing so distressing to a true Christian as to have to prove himself such to others, both as being conscious of his own numberless failings and from his dislike of display. Christ has anticipated the difficulties of his modesty. He does not allow such a one to speak for himself; He speaks for him. Let us endeavour to enter more and more fully into the meaning of our own prayers and professions; let us humble ourselves for the very little we do and the poor advance we make; let us avoid unnecessary display of religion. Thus we shall, through God’s grace, form within us the glorious mind of Christ.—Newman.
Teachings of Baptism.
I. Our baptism must put us in mind that we are admitted and received into the family of God.
II. Our baptism in the name of the Trinity must teach us to know and acknowledge God aright.
III. Our baptism must be unto us a storehouse of comfort in time of need.
IV. Baptism is a putting on of Christ.—Alluding to the custom of those who were baptised in the apostle’s days putting off their garments when they were baptised, and putting on new garments after baptism.
1. In that we are to put on Christ we are reminded of our moral nakedness.
2. To have a special care of the trimming and garnishing of our souls.
3. Though we be clothed with Christ in baptism, we must further desire to be clothed upon—clad with immortality.—Perkins.
Galatians 3:28. All are One in Christ.
I. People of all nations, all conditions, and all sexes.
II. They who are of great birth and high condition must be put in mind not to be high-minded, nor despise them of low degree, for all are one in Christ.
III. All believers must be of one heart and mind.
IV. We learn not to hate any man, but do good to all.—Men turn their swords and spears into mattocks and scythes, because they are one with Christ by the bond of one Spirit.—Perkins.
Galatians 3:29. The Promise of Grace.—The specific form of the whole gospel is promise, which God gives in the word and causes to be preached. The last period of the world is the reign of grace. Grace reigns in the world only as promise. Grace has nothing to do with law and requisition of law; therefore the word of that grace can be no other than a word of promise. The promise of life in Christ Jesus is the word of the new covenant. The difference between the gospel of the old covenant and that of the new rests alone on the transcendently greater glory of its promise.—Harless.
Heirs according to the Promise.
I. The basest person, if he believes in Christ, is in the place of Abraham, and succeeds him in the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven.
II. Believers must be content in this world with any estate God may lay upon them, for they are heirs with Abraham of heaven and earth.
III. They that believe in Christ must moderate their worldly cares and not live as drudges of the world, for they are heirs of God, and are entitled to all good things promised in the covenant.
IV. Our special care must be for heaven.—The city of God is thy portion, or child’s part.—Perkins.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Galatians 3". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29