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The Apostle is still prosecuting the Subject of Justification solely in Christ. H e sweetly speaks of the Mediator, and the Blessedness at being in Christ.
(1) ¶ O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? (2) This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (3) Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (4) Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. (5) He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Let the Reader observe, that when Paul calls the Galatians foolish, the word is meant in no worse sense, than that of weakness in faith. The expression is like that of Christ, to his disciples, at Emmaus. Luke 24:25 , In both cases, the persons spoken to were in grace; and, therefore, it differed wholly from the Scriptural sense of fool, such as Christ condemned: Matthew 5:22 . See Commentary there. In that sense, and some others, the term evidently meant, reprobate. See Job 28:28 . with Isaiah 27:11 . If the Reader hath my Poor Man's Concordance at hand, he may consult it, under the article Rebel for information, as to the difference in those terms. God's children are called rebellious, yea, the Lord calls them himself: Isaiah 30:1 and a temporary woe is pronounced upon them. But the Lord never calls them rebels; neither doth the Lord allow any other, to call them by that name, with impunity. See Numbers 20:10 .
What rendered the conduct of those Galatians the more reprehensible was, that Christ had been so blessedly preached to them, in all his fullness, and all-sufficiency; as if they had in reality been present at all the great events, which attended his crucifixion, and death, at Jerusalem. And yet, with all those strong convictions on their minds, they were turning aside, from seeking justification, in a full, free grace in Christ, to take to them recommendations, by the deeds of the law. Reader! the smallest attention to the Apostle's statement, under grace, is enough to convince any man, of the folly and weakness of such conduct. Let a child of God, who is savingly called by sovereign grace, to the truth as it is in Jesus, ask his own heart, the same question. Paul asked those Galatians. How was the Spirit first received? For, as it was first received, so most it be to the last. As I came to Christ, in the first moments of convictions under sin; so must I, at the very last, come to Him. For in myself I have no more to bring him now, than I had then, And as I came, under the reproaches, and condemnations of my own heart; so must I always come. And a blessed, and a sure way of coming it is, in which the divine glory, and the soul's safety, sweetly concur. And to live upon Christ, in the daily comfort of His Person, Blood, and Righteousness; in the free, sovereign grace, of an everlasting Covenant, ordered in all things and sure; what can give assured peace to the soul, like this?
(6) ¶ Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. (7) Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. (8) And 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. (9) So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
It w as a very blessed plan, the Apostle here adopted, for the better confirmation of the doctrine he had in view, of proving, that justification is only in Christ when he adverted to the case of Abraham. For what was Abraham, when the Lord first called him? Without all doubt, an idolater; for the Lord called him from Ur of the Chaldees, who were heathens. And, that the Patriarch was at once justified by the Lord, is evident, for the Holy Ghost hath left it upon record, for the perpetual comfort of the Church, in all generations? that the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham. It must, therefore, undeniably follow that Abraham, at the time of his justification, had not an atom of good works, to recommend him to God. Hence, in thy Patriarch's instance, as in all others of the Lord's people, it is all pure, free, unmerited grace.
And where was the merit of Abraham's belief in God? Was it not given him? And could that be the merit of man, which resulted wholly from the grace and gift of God? Moreover, it was not the faith of Abraham, which was imputed to him; but Christ's righteousness. God said: in thee, that is, in thy seed, meaning Christ, shall all nations be blessed. Abraham believed this, and it was accounted to him, (that is, Christ's righteousness, not Abraham's faith, was accounted to him,) for righteousness. God hath said: fear not, Abraham! I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. Genesis 15:1 . The Patriarch believed this. And, therefore, he beheld himself secured in the Lord's promise: Christ was his shield, and exceeding great reward. See Romans 4:0 . and Commentary.
And the Reader will recollect, that all this took place, before that Abraham had wrought a single act of faith, or works. Circumcision had not at this time been even named. And when, in after days, the Lord was pleased to institute it in Abraham's family; the Holy Ghost expressly bears testimony, that it was only a sign, and seal, of the faith which he had, yet being uncircumcised. Romans 4:11 . Reader! do not overlook, how sweetly, and satisfactorily, this paragraph closeth: All the faithful seed of Abraham, are blessed from the same cause with faithful Abraham.
(10) For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. (11) But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. (12) And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. (13) Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree: (14) That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Let the Reader, as he passeth over this paragraph, first notice the form of expression the Apostle useth, concerning the law. He doth not say, as many as were born under the law; for he himself was born under it, as well as multitudes of God's people, whom the Lord had brought out of it. Neither doth he say, as many as live according to the commandments of the law; for we read; that Zacharias and Elizabeth were both enabled, through grace, to do this. Luke 1:6 . Paul doth not speak slightingly of the law; for elsewhere he saith, the law is good, if a man use it lawfully. 1 Timothy 1:8 ; Romans 7:12 . But the Apostle's expression is: For as many as are of the works of the law; that is, are looking to it, either in whole, or in part, for justification. All such, saith Paul, are under the curse; that is, are necessarily under the condemnation of it, because it universally condemns, every son and daughter of Adam: for all have sinned and come short of it. Romans 3:23 ; Deuteronomy 27:26 . Reader! are you fully impressed, with this great, and most unquestionable truth? Romans 3:19 ; James 2:10 . Such only are, whom God the Holy Ghost hath prepared, for receiving with holy joy, the soul-reviving Scripture, which the Apostle adds: Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us!
I be the Reader to weigh well the statement of this passage; for it is most weighty, and precious. There are indeed two Scriptures, which in point of mystery, and in point of mercy, overwhelm the soul of every regenerated child of God, when he comes, under the Holy Ghost's teaching, to contemplate them in his mind. The one is, where Christ is said to be made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 , And the other is, what the Holy Ghost hath recorded in this place: Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. Reader! behold them together, and ponder well the vast expressions. Christ, the holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens, first made sin, and then a curse! He who knew no sin, made sin for us; that we, who know no righteousness, and literally have none, should be made the righteousness of God in him.
We shall enter into a clearer apprehension of the unspeakable mercy in this dispensation, if, under the Lord's teaching, we consider the Scripture-sense of redemption. The word is borrowed from an ancient, well-known custom, among men, of buying off, or redeeming, what is pledged by one man to another, by way of security. A man may be said to redeem a thing, when he buys it out. And, in case of want, if he gives an equivalent value for it. In the Jewish Church, the Lord himself appointed this method of redeeming, and no doubt with an eye to his own vast redemption of his Church. Leviticus 25:25 . The mortgaged inheritance, became a striking resemblance, of our forfeited privileges. And what a redemption was that which Christ made, when to deliver us from the curse, he himself was made a curse? And having, therefore, paid the fullest equivalent, yea, infinitely beyond all possible conception of greatness, as an equivalent for the debt; the law can have no further demands, the Principal, and Surety, cannot both pay. And the debt once paid, the prison doors Justice herself throws open; and the Lord's redeemed ones are free. Christ hath once died, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. 1 Peter 3:18 ; Zechariah 9:11 ; Isaiah 49:9 .
(15) Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. (16) Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. (17) And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. (18) For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. (19) ¶ Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. (20) Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.
No form of words could have been more happily chosen, than what is here done, to show the unchangeable nature of the Covenant in itself; and to manifest at the same time, that it is all completed in Christ. The Covenant being from everlasting, partook of all properties suited to its everlasting nature; and as such, was ordered in all things and sure. And nothing could possibly arise, from which provision was not made. Consequently nothing could counteract the whole design. And when this Covenant was made and confirmed, by all the Persons of the Godhead; nothing could be added to, or taken from. Even a man's covenant, (with Paul,) once stamped and sealed, is not to be rescinded. Now as the Almighty Covenanters engaged for all the parts of this Covenant, it is plain, that no respect was had either to the good works, or, to the evil works, of those, who were to be the highly favored objects of the bounty this Covenant promised. The Church of Christ, was considered as in need, of this rich mercy. And the Church of Christ had nothing to do, but to be the receiver of it. Jehovah, in his threefold character of Person, was neither constrained by the Church's deservings, nor restrained by her undeservings. All was of grace. And the whole result was all along intended, to be to the praise of the glory, of His grace, who hath made the Church accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:6 .
And, as the Covenant itself was, in its very nature, fixed, unalterable, and everlasting: so Christ, in whom the whole centered, and by whom the whole was to be accomplished, and who in fact was the whole of the Covenant, became the sole Security, on the part of his Church, for the fulfillment. Now, to Abraham (saith Paul) and his seed, were the promises made: (that is, were given, or deposited). He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one: and to thy seed, which is Christ. Nothing can more strongly define, both Christ, and his seed. For Abraham, had many children beside Isaac. But, in Isaac the line of grace ran. And to show at the same time, even in this line, that the children of promise were all of Christ; while, in the generations, from Abraham to Christ, all pointed to Christ: and the promised seed, Christ himself, came in with the fall. The very first promise of the Bible, proclaimed Christ: when it was said, the seed of the woman. Genesis 3:15 . And, without all question, or doubt in that holy portion of our nature, which the Son of God took into union with himself, was contained, all the spiritual seeds of holiness, from whence the nature of his Church should be formed; and become partaker with him, of all that she is capable of receiving, of grace here, and glory forever. He is the Head of his body the Church, the fullness of Him which filleth all in all Ephesians 1:22-49.1.23 .
And, to confirm this point still more, the Apostle refers to the great distance in point of time, after which the law was given from that period, when God confirmed the Covenant to Abraham. Four hundred and thirty years ran out, before the law was heard of. And how, in the nature of things, could this be supposed, to counteract the Lord's original purposes, revealed to Abraham? And besides this, it was at least two thousand years, from the first, and original promise at the fall: yea, the Covenant itself, and all the promises, were in Christ, before the world began. Psalms 89:3 ; 1 Timothy 2:9 ; Titus 1:2 . Reader! do not fail to observe these things! A Covenant formed between the Persons of the Godhead, from all eternity; formed in Christ, depending wholly for accomplishment by Christ, and all the blessings of it placed with Christ could have no respect to merit, or undeserving, in the objects of the proposed grace, either before, or after receiving the unspeakable mercy. For, as the Apostle elsewhere concludes; if it be by grace, then is it no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace. Romans 11:6 .
And if, from this unanswerable, and conclusive reasoning, the question should arise in any man's mind, wherefore then serveth the law? The answer (saith Paul) is direct: It was added because of transgressions, until Christ the seed should come. That is to show the heinousness of sin, and the holiness of God: and thereby more fully prove, the infinite importance of redemption by Christ. And nothing could so effectually manifest, the desperately wicked state of man's nature by the fall, as when held forth in the glass of God's holy law. For, precepts to holiness, act as a bridle upon our corrupt affections, and we thereby discover our propensities the stronger to offend: just as pent up waters, swell, and grow more violent, the more they are restrained. And hence the law was added, to show poor fallen man, the awful state, to which by sin he is reduced; and the more powerfully to show, the necessity of Christ. Reader! it would be always blessed, if men so viewed the holiness of God's law, and their total inability to perform it. Jesus, and his complete salvation, would then be valued, as the one only ordinance of heaven, whereby we must be saved.
On the subject which the Apostle next treats of, respecting the law being ordained by Angels in the hand of a Mediator; I am free to confess, that after the numberless times I have read this Scripture; I know not, whether my apprehension of the Apostle's meaning is correct. No Commentator that I have seen, hath afforded me any satisfaction upon it. And the greater part of their opinions I differ from. Under these circumstances, I shall venture to give the Reader what appears to me to be the most probable sense of the passage, without determining upon the correctness of it: and I pray God the Holy Ghost, to be the Teacher on this occasion, both of the Writer, and Reader, of this Poor Man's Commentary.
I see no difficulty, however, in apprehending what is said on the subject, in relation to the angels. They are no more than servants, or messengers, upon the occasion. And certainly, nothing can be intended by what is here observed, than that their services were used at the giving of the law. Ordained by angels, means not, that they had a hand in forming, or framing, the law. This was (and is expressly said to be) in the hand of a Mediator. The Apostle elsewhere useth a different word, to what he here names ordained; and saith, the word was spoken by angels. Hebrews 2:2 . And Stephen, in his defence before the council, terms it, disposition of angels. Acts 7:53 . The sense, therefore, is plainly this, and no more: that the Lord was pleased, as he did upon various other occasions to the Church, to make use of the services of angels, in ordaining, or speaking, or disposing; that is, delivering, the law. Hebrews 1:6 ; Genesis 32:0 ; John 1:51 ; Matthew 25:31 , etc.
But the great difficulty, to the full, and clear apprehension of the passage, relates to the Person of the Mediator here spoken of. The question is, whom doth the Holy Ghost mean? The general opinion of Commentators, decidedly declare it to be Moses. But to me, I confess, nothing appears to be more improbable. For, not to remark, how unsuitable so high an office of dignity, must be, for the exercise of any, that is but merely man and no more; the terror, and apprehension of Moses at this scene of Sinai, totally disqualified him from it, had nothing beside been unfavorable to this opinion. And though some, to lessen the force of this objection, have observed, that Moses only acted here, as a type of Christ; yet this was altogether unnecessary, when, as is evident from other Scriptures, Christ was himself present. And although Moses, as the servant, and minister of the Lord Jesus, went in, and out, before Christ's Church; (Deuteronomy 5:5-5.5.27 .) yet no where through all the Bible is he ever called mediator. But, on the contrary, God the Holy Ghost tells the Church finally, and fully, by Paul, that there is One Mediator (and the very expression implies that there is no other) between God and Men, the Man Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 5:0 . See Commentary on the passage.
And moreover, on the supposition that Moses was here meant, as personating Christ; then, in this case, there was only one party present, at the delivery of the law, namely, God. And the Holy Ghost by Paul saith, that a Mediator is not a Mediator of one; for there must be two parties at least in every Covenant: for otherwise he cannot be called a mediator, where there is nothing to mediate, or come between. Whereas, if Moses be considered on this occasion as a mediator, where was the other party to form the Covenant? In this sense, I should be rather inclined to consider Moses as the representative of the Church, than a mediator, or the representative of a mediator; for then, both parties might be said to be present.
According, therefore, to every view which can be taken of the subject, we can look nowhere for this Mediator, but to the Lord Jesus Christ. And, although a difficulty seems to arise, (and who is there taught of God, but must expect continual difficulties to arise in our perception of divine things, in the present twilight of knowledge?) how Christ should be the Mediator, at the giving of the law, when the Holy Ghost declares him to be the Mediator of a better Covenant established upon better promises: Hebrews 8:6 . yet difficulties are less, in reconciling this apprehension of things together, than in the former. Though the law be called the ministration of death, when compared to the Gospel; and Christ himself is the source of life, to his people: yet the law is said to be spiritual also; and was intended to act spiritually in the Church, unto the coming of Christ. And, it should seem to be the more probable conclusion, that Christ is the Mediator on this occasion, in whose hand the law was ordained, than any other: though I beg it may be understood, that I presume not to speak the least decidedly upon the subject.
But the Reader will indulge me yet a little farther I hope, to bring before him a few more Scriptural testimonies (as they appear to me) in confirmation of it; and as the subject is in itself so highly interesting.
The Prophets who have noticed the solemn transaction, of the giving of the law, at Mount Sinai, appear to have uniformly considered Christ, as the manifested Jehovah, on this occasion. Thus the Psalmist: He first speaks of the Lord's descension on the Mount; and immediately connects with it his ascension when redemption-work was finished. And, that the Psalmist considered the splendid acts, to have been accomplished by one and the same Person, the smallest reference to the Scripture he hath given on the subject, will fully prove. See Psalms 68:17-19.68.18 . and Poor Man's Commentary there.
In like manner, the Prophet Habakkuk, when speaking of God, coming from Teman; and the Holy One, from Mount Paran: (a well-known name of the Lord Jesus Christ:) he connects the subject of this glorious One, going before Israel in the Wilderness, with Him as one, and the same Person, which went forth for the salvation of his people; even for salvation with his anointed ones. (For so the words may be rendered.) See Habakkuk 3:3-35.3.13 . compared with: Micah 5:2 . and Poor Man's Commentary in both places.
And still further. It is worthy remark, that Stephen, when under the full influence of the Holy Ghost, as he stood before the Sanhedrim, expressly calls Christ, the Prophet foretold by Moses; and then as expressly added: This is He that was in the Church in the Wilderness, with the Angel, which spoke to him in the Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, who received the lively Oracles to give unto us. Acts 7:38 and Commentary. A plain proof, that Stephen, as well as the Prophets, considered Christ present at those solemn transactions, in the Mount.
And what should seem to be the fair, and probable conclusion, from the whole, in reference to this most interesting subject; (for I still beg it may be considered I am not speaking decidedly, but rather in a way of enquiry,) but that Christ, who in his office-character as Wisdom-Mediator, saith himself, that he was set up from everlasting; Proverbs 8:22 was, and is, the same in all ages of his Church, who hath come forth from the invisibility of the divine essence, to make known, all that can be made known, of the purpose, and will of God. In the early ages, by glorious manifestations of his divine presence. In the after days of his flesh, in open revelation. But in all, as the only visible Jehovah. Hence, all things are in his hand, as in the hand of a Mediator. He reveals the law, in the Shechinah glory before his incarnation. He fulfills the law, in the days of his tabernacling among his people. And He was, and is, and will be, to all eternity, the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth. Romans 10:4 . And hence, so considered, we enter into some apprehension of that sweet, and precious Scripture of Christ himself; which seems, as far as we can at present judge, not to be explained in any other way. No man hath ascended up to heaven but he that came down from heaven; even the Son of Man, which is in heaven. He who in his Covenant office and character, after redemption-work was finished, ascended up to heaven, is the same which came down from heaven; having stood up from everlasting in heaven, in the Covenant Council of chosen God-Man-Mediator: even the Son of Man; who in the same Covenant-character represented is in heaven. John 3:13 and Commentary there.
(21) Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. (22) But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. (23) But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. (24) Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (25) But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. (26) For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. (27) For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (29) And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
What a very blessed account Paul here gives of the ministry of the law, and the end of it in Christ. If men, taught of God, would consult those Scriptures, instead of carnal reasoning's, they would discover, that the law, in its highest services, was never intended to higher usefulness in the Church, than as an hand-maid unto Christ. And I cannot enough admire the beautiful figure which the Apostle adopts, of a schoolmaster, when speaking of the law. For, in general, men of this profession, observe one firm, steady, and unshaken purpose, in their plan of discipline. A breach in their commands, is followed by punishment. And as a master, though demanding obedience, on penalty of correction: so, the law is sure to condemn all breaches, but affords no helps to obey. The universal decree which accompanies every precept, is: do this, and thou shalt live. Cursed is everyone which continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. Reader! is not this very blessedly preaching the necessity of Christ?
I detain the Reader a moment longer to observe, that when it is said at this verse, the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ; the words to bring us unto are not in the original Scripture. Neither, indeed ought they to have been in the translation. For although the imperious demands of the law, preacheth the necessity of Christ; yet the law never bringeth to Christ. This is the work of God alone to accomplish. And the drawings of the Father, and the teachings of the Spirit, are necessary to this great end! John 6:44-43.6.45 and John 16:14 .
What a very sweet, and blessed conclusion, is made of this Chapter, in relation to the whole family. All are said to be children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. Their sonship is defined by their characters in their original constitution, when chosen in Christ and when betrothed to Christ, as well as when redeemed by Christ, and regenerated by God the Holy Ghost. And their baptism, is said to be baptized into Christ. Not outward ordinances, but inward grace. Not mere profession, but vital union. They are said to have put on Christ; not put on a name, but Christ: by the washing of regeneration, and a renewing of the Holy Ghost shed on them abundantly through Jesus Christ our Lord. Titus 3:5-56.3.6 . And, in this family alliance, all distinctions are lost, and done away. The Jew and the Greek, the bond and the free, are all one in the One glorious Head. For being proved to be Christ's, they thereby prove themselves to be Abraham's seed, and all equally included, in the privilege of children. Oh! the blessedness of being Christ's, and heirs according to the promise.
Oh! the weakness of the Galatians, to be looking unto Christ only in part; and for a moment to fancy, that having began in the Spirit, they could be made perfect in the flesh. And is there no Church of Christ in the present hour, tainted with the same leaven? Nay, my soul! may'st thou not but too often detect thyself, in turning to somewhat of thine own, instead of living wholly upon Jesus. Oh! my foolish heart! what can prompt to the idea, or give the least encouragement, to look off from Christ, to look unto self, in any attainments. Lord Jesus! do thou help me to feel, my utter need of thee every moment, that to the last hour, I may come to Jesus, as I came the first hour; wholly wretched in myself, and altogether insolvent.
And, oh! the sweet thought to my soul: Under all the condemnation of the law, and the curses due to the breaches of it; Jesus is the Mediator, and the Fulfiller of the law, and the complete righteousness of his people. Be thou, my honored Lord, the glorious Head, and Husband, of thy whole family. Thou art indeed the all in all, to the whole seed of Abraham; for in thee shall all thy people, in all nations, be blessed.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Galatians 3". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany