Click here to join the effort!
O foolish Galatians (ὦ ἀνόητοι Γαλάται). In thus apostrophizing them, the apostle brands their present behaviour, not any lack of intelligence on their part in general (comp. Luke 24:25). "Foolish"—to allow yourselves to be thus robbed of your happiness. The transporting feeling of elevation and joy with which, in Galatians 2:19-21, the apostle describes himself as crucified with Christ to the Law, and as living in Christ and through Christ, makes him the more keenly sensible of the senseless folly shown by the Galatians in taking up the observance of the Law. Who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truths? (τίς ὑμᾶς ἐβάσκανε; [Receptus adds, τῇ ἀληθείᾳ μὴ πείθεσθαι]); who in his envy did bewitch you? With respect to the Greek text, there is now no doubt amongst editors that the words, τῇ ἀληθείᾳ μὴ πείθεσθαι, "that ye should not obey the truth," are not genuine here, being in all probability foisted in from Galatians 3:7. We have, therefore, to omit them and to read ἐβάσκανεν as before οἷς. Ἐβάσκανεν is a remarkable word, and calls for comment. In common Greek, βασκαίνειν τινά, to treat one with malignant words, means either to slander, belie, blacken character, or to cast upon him primarily words conveying baleful spells, and then, in later usage very frequently, baleful spells of any kind, and more especially spells from the "evil eye" (Aristotle, Plutarch); in the language of old English superstition, "forelook" or "overlook." Indeed, so closely did this last notion cling to the verb, as to have suggested to Greek grammarians for its etymology, φάεσι καίνειν, "to kill with the eyes." The more scientific etymologists of recent days derive it from βάζω βάσκω, speak; as if it were "to bespeak a man." The nouns βάσκσνος βασκανία, following the senses of the verb, express the ideas, either of envious detraction or of sorcery (see Schneider; Passow; Liddell and Scott). In the New Testament the word occurs only here. In the Septuagint we meet with it in Deuteronomy 28:54, where, for the words, "His eye shall be evil towards his brother," we have Βασκανεῖ τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ αὐτοῦ τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ, meaning apparently, "He shall grudge with his eye his brother;" and so again in Deuteronomy 28:56, the same phrase is used analogously of the tender woman, "She shall grudge with her eye her husband;" Ecclus. 14:6, "There is not a worse man (τοῦ βασκαίνοντος ἑαυτόν) than he that grudges his own self;" ibid. verse 8, "Evil is (ὁ βασκαίνων ὀφαλμῷ) he that grudgeth with his eye. In Scripture, both in the Old Testament and the New, and in the Apocrypha, the phrases, "the eye being evil," "the evil eye," following the Hebrew, always denote envy, ill nature, niggardliness. Nowhere either in the Scriptures or in the Apocrypha is there any reference to "forelooking," unless perchance the me'ōnen, Deuteronomy 20:10 (Authorized Version, "observer of times"), is etymologically connected with the Hebrew word for "eye," which, however, few critics suppose. Ignatius, 'Ad Romans', 3, has Οὐδέποτε ἐβασκάνατε οὐδένα ἄλλους ἐδιδάξατε, "never grudged any man." This Septuagintal use of the verb presents, as the reader will observe, a somewhat different shade of meaning to any of those cited above from the lexicons. Following, however, its guidance, we may understand the apostle as here asking, "Whoso ill-natured jealousy was it that did light upon you?" and as intending to convey these two ideas:
(1) the envy of their once happy state which actuated the agent referred to; and,
(2) by implication, the baleful effect wrought by the envier upon them. The aorist of the verb seems to point to a decisive result. He had, it is hinted, succeeded in his wish; he had robbed them of the blessedness which had excited his jealousy. In respect to the former idea, elsewhere (Galatians 4:17, "They would fain shut you out") the apostle ascribes the action of their misleaders to sinister designs against their well-being. It is, indeed, this thought that inspires the extreme severity of his language above in Galatians 2:4; the βάσκανος, of whom he here speaks, belonged to, or derived from, them. In short, the pathetic question here before us breathes the like indignation and vexation as that in Galatians 5:7, "Ye were running on well: who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?"—the last words of which passage, though not admissible here in the text, would, however, if there, form a perfectly correct explanatory clause. The more distinctly to mark the effect actually produced by the envier, very many commentators have enwoven into their interpretation of ἐνάσκανεν, besides its Septuagiutal sense, its other sense of blasting with some kind of charm: "The malignity," Chrysostom writes, "of a demon whose spirit [or, 'breath'] had blasted their prosperous estate." Great use has been made, in particular, by many, as, e.g. Jerome and, according to Estius, by Thomas Aquinas, of the superstition of the "evil eye," which, in the countries bordering on the Mediterranean, has in all ages been so rife. Bishop Lightfoot, in his interesting note on the passage, offers the following paraphrase: "Christ's death in vain? O ye senseless Gauls, what bewitchment is this? I placarded Christ crucified before your eyes. Ye suffered them to wander from this gracious proclamation of your King. They rested on the withering eye of the sorcerer. They yielded to the fascination and were riveted there. And the life of your souls has been drained out of you by that envious gaze." It may, however, be questioned whether the apostle would have recognized his own thought in this thorough-going application of the superstition of the "evil eye." It is doubtful whether he used the verb ἐβάσκανεν with reference to any species of sorcery at all; but if he did, he may have intended no more than this: "What envious ill-wisher has by some strange, inexplicable sorcery so wrought upon you? Or, how can I explain your behaviour, except that you have been acting under some binding spell? Surely such folly is well-nigh inconceivable with men in free possession of their own souls." But
(1) each of these two renderings of the passage is open to the objection that St. Paul, in writing ἐβάσκανεν, either might have intended to express by the word "envious grudging," according to its Sep-tuagintal use, or he might have meant some kind of sorcery according to a common acceptation of the term, but could hardly have meant to convey both senses together.
(2) The introduction of the supposition is inconvenient, not only because there could not have really been any such ingredient in the actual circumstances of the present case, but also because its mention would serve to excuse the folly of the Galatians, as indeed Chrysostom observes that it does, rather than to enhance its censure, which latter would have been more to the apostle's purpose.
(3) It seems especially improbable that the apostle was thinking of the "evil eye" when we consider the entire absence of its mention in the sacred writings. Before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? (οἷς κατ ὀφθαλμοὺς Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς προεγράφη ἐν ὑμῖν ἐσταυρωμένος;); to whom, before your very eyes, Jesus Christ had been (literally, was) aforetime (or, openly) set forth crucified (among you)? The genuineness of the words, ἐν ὑμῖν, "among you," is very doubtful. The Revised Greek text omits them. The words, κατ ὀφθαλμούς, "before your very eyes," are very pointed; for the Greek expression, comp. κατὰ πρόσωπον (Galatians 2:11), and Aristoph., 'Ran.,' 625, ἵνα σοι κατ ὀφθαλμοὺς λέγῃ, "that he may say it to your very face." The sense of προεγράφη is much disputed. It is not clear whether the πρὸ is the "before" of time or of place. Of the other passages in the New Testament in which this compound verb occurs, in Romans 15:4 twice, and Ephesians 3:3, πρὸ is certainly, and in Jude 1:4 probably, not so certainly, "before" of time. In the present passage a reference to the prophecies of the Old Testament seems out of place. It is far more suitable to the connection to suppose that the apostle is referring to his own preaching. Some commentators, retaining the words, ἐν ὑμῖν, connect them with προεγράφη in the sense of "in you," comparing "Christ in you" (Colossians 1:27), and "written in your hearts" (2 Corinthians 3:2); and so render the words thus: "written of, or described, before in you." But such an expression, sufficiently awkward in itself, would further be very unsuitably introduced after the words, "before your very eyes." Supposing we take the πρὸ as of time, there is no satisfactory explanation of the ἐγρὰφη, if understood in the sense of writing, there being no tablet (so to speak) suggested on which the writing could be conceived of as done. Γράφω, it is true, means "describe" in John 1:45 and Romans 10:5; but it is still a description in writing. We are, therefore, driven to assign to the verb the notion of portraying as in a painting, a sense which in Common Greek it certainly does sometimes bear, and which attaches to it in the διαγράφω of Ezekiel 4:1; Ezekiel 8:10. We thus gain the sense, "had before been set forth or por trayed;" before (that is) the envier assailed you. This same sense, of portraying rather than of writing, would be also the best to give to the verb, supposing the πρὸ to be understood as the "before" of place; which conception of the preposition Bishop Lightfoot contends for, urging the use of the verb προγράφειν, and the nouns πρόγραμμα and προγραφή, with reference to the placards on which public notices were given of political or other matters of business. When, how ever, we consider how partial the apostle is to verbs compounded with πρὸ of time, as is seen in his use of προαιτιάομαι προακούω, προαμαρτάνω προελπίζω προενάρχομαι προεπαγγέλλομαι προτετοιμάζω προευαγγελίζομαι προκαταγγέλλω προκαταρτίζω προκυρόομαι, προπάσχω, not a few of which were probably compounded by himself as he wanted them, it appears highly probable that, to serve the present occasion, he here forms the compound προγράφω in the sense of "portraying before," the compound not existing elsewhere in the same sense. He compares, then, the idea of Christ crucified, presented to his hearers in his preaching, to a portraiture, in which the Redeemer had been so vividly and with such striking effect exhibited to his converts, that it ought in all reason have for ever safeguarded their souls against all danger from teaching of an alien character. If the phrase, ἐν ὑμῖν, be retained, it appears best, with Chrysostom and many others, to understand it as meaning, that St. Paul had presented Christ crucified in such lively colours to their view, that they had, as it were, seen him hanging on the cross in their very midst. The position of ἐσταυρωμένος, disconnected from Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς and at the end of the sen tence, gives it intense significance. What the idea of Christ crucified was to his own self, the apostle had just before declared; for him it at once had destroyed all spiritual connection with the ceremonial Law, the Law which bade the crucified One away from itself as accursed, and also by the infinite love to himself which he beheld manifested in Christ crucified for him, had bound him to him by spiritual ties both all-constraining and iudissoluble. And such (he means) should have been the effect produced by that idea upon their souls. What envier of their happiness in him could, then, possibly have torn them from him? This same portraiture of "Christ crucified" which he reminds the Galatians he had in those days presented to them, he also, as he tells the, Corinthians (l Corinthians Galatians 1:23; Gal 2:2; 2 Corinthians 5:20, 2 Corinthians 5:21), had been intent on holding up before the Greeks of Achaia; while, further, he intimates to the Romans, in his Epistle to them, how eager he was to come and at Rome also hold up Christ as him whom God had set forth to be a Propitiation, through faith, by his blood (Romans 1:15, Romans 1:16; Romans 3:25). Both to the Jew and to the Gentile, both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise, this, emphatically this, was the alone and the sovereign salvation. This picturing forth of the crucified One, however, would hardly from Paul's lips concern itself much with the outward particulars of the passion; it might have been this, in a far greater degree, in St. Peter's presentment of it, who had been himself witness of those sufferings; but Paul, with his habits of thought, as we know them from his writings, who knew Christ as in the spirit rather than as in the flesh, would occupy himself more with the spiritual idea of the cross—its embodiment of perfect meekness and gentleness and self-sacrifice, of humility. of obedience to the Father's will, of love to all mankind, of especial care for his own, and its antagonism to the spirit of Levitical ceremonialism. "Such presentment," remarks Calvin, "as if in a picture, nay, as if actually crucified in the very midst of the hearers themselves, no eloquence, no artifice of rhetoric, can produce, unless that mighty working of the Spirit be assistant of which the apostle speaks in his two Epistles to the Corinthians (e.g. 1 Corinthians 2:4, 1 Corinthians 2:5, 1Co 2:13, 1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 3:3, 2 Corinthians 3:6). If any, therefore, would fain duly discharge the ministry of the gospel, let them learn not so much to apply eloquence and declamation, as to likewise so pierce into men's consciences that these may truly feet Christ crucified and the dropping upon them of his blood. Where the Church hath painters such as these, she very little needeth any more representations in wood and stone, that is, dead images, very little any paintings; and certainly among Christians the doors of the temples were not open for the reception of images and paintings until the shepherds either had grown dumb and become mere dolls, or else did say in the pulpit no more than just a few words, and these in so cold and perfunctory a manner that the power and efficacy of the gospel ministry was utterly extinct."
This only would I learn of you (τοῦτο μόνον θέλω μαθεῖν ἀφ ὑμῶν); this only would I learn from you. I need ask for nothing more to show that the Law is nothing to you, than that you should tell me this. Received ye the Spirit by the works of the Law? (ἐξ ἔργων νόμου τὸ Πνεῦμα ἐλάβετε;); was it in consequence of works of the Law that ye received the Spirit? I came amongst you as an apostle, preaching the gospel, and upon your baptism laying my hands upon you; and the Holy Spirit came down upon you, proving the reality of his presence both by signs and miracles and powers, and also by the love, joy, and peace with which your hearts were filled; sealing at once the truth of my doctrine and your own position individually as recognized heirs of the kingdom of God. You remember that time. Well, how was it then? Had there a word been then spoken touching meats or drinks, or washings of purification (besides your baptism into Christ), or circumcision, or care of ceremonial cleanness? Had you attended to any one point whatever of Levitical ordinance? Had either you or I cast one thought in that direction? The "works of the Law" here referred to must still be works of ceremonial performance, not those of moral obedience; for repentance, the practical breaking off from sin, the surrender of the soul to God and to Christ in faith and loyal obedience, the outward assuming of the character of God's servants, the purpose and inchoate performance of works meet for repentance,—these dotings of compliance with the moral Law were there. The gift of the Spirit was evidenced by charisms plainly supernatural; but it comprised more than the bestowment of these. Or by the hearing of faith? (ἤ ἐξ ἀκοῆς πίστεως;); or was it in consequence of the hearing of faith? The noun ἀκοὴ denotes sometimes (what is heard) "report," "rumour," as Matthew 4:24; Matthew 24:6; Romans 10:16, Romans 10:17; sometimes, especially in the plural, the organs or sense of hearing, as Mark 7:35; Luke 7:1; Acts 17:20; Heb 5:11; 2 Timothy 4:3, 2 Timothy 4:4; sometimes the act of hearing, as Matthew 13:14; 1 Samuel 15:22. The last appears more suitable here than the first taken (as some take it) as describing the doctrine or message which they heard respecting faith; standing as ἀκοὴ does in contrast to "works" which would have been an acting of theirs, this likewise was most probably meant by the apostle subjectively of something appearing on their own part. "Were you not at once received into the kingdom of God and filled with joy in the Holy Spirit, immediately upon your believing acceptance of the gospel message?" With exquisite propriety, as Bengel observes, is hereby marked the nature of faith, not working, but receiving. This agrees also best with the illustration which in 1 Samuel 15:6 the apostle gives of the phrase as introduced by him again in 1 Samuel 15:5.
Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (οὕτως ἀνόητοί ἐστε ἐναρξάμενοι, πνεύματι νῦν σαρκὶ ἐπιτελεῖσθε); are ye so foolish? having begun with the Spirit, are y¢ now finishing with the flesh? Πνεύματι, as contrasted with σαρκί, means the element of spiritual existence (comp. the use of πνεῦμα in Romans 1:4; 1 Peter 3:18) into which they had been brought at their conversion by the Holy Spirit's influence; including the spiritual sensibility and spiritual activity which had at first marked their Christian life, as e.g. joy in God in the sense of pardon, adoption (Galatians 4:6), love to God, affectionate attachment to their spiritual teacher (Galatians 4:14, Galatians 4:15), brotherly love among themselves: at that hour all their soul was praise, joy, love. Σαρκὶ denotes a lower, merely sensuous kind of religiousness, one busying itself with ceremonial performances, observance of days and festivals (Galatians 4:10), distinctions of meats, and other matters of ceremonial prescription; with petty strivings and disputings, of course, about such points, as if they really mattered at all; in which kind of religiousness the former tone of love, joy, sense of adoption, praise, had evaporated, leaving their souls dry, earthly (comp. "weak and beggarly rudiments," Galatians 4:9; and for the use of σάρξ, Hebrews 9:10). Perhaps the apostle includes also in his use of the term the loss of spiritual victory over sin. if in place of surrendering themselves to the leading of the Spirit (comp. Galatians 5:18) they put themselves under the Law, then they fell back again under the power of the "flesh," which the Law could only command them to control, but could of itself give them no power to control (Romans 8:3). The Authorized Version, "begun in," is doubtless faulty, in taking πνεύματι as governed by the ἐν of the compound verb. The two verbs ἐνάρχομαι and ἐπιτελεῖν are balanced against each other in 2 Corinthians 8:6; Philippians 1:6. Ἐπιτελεῖσθε may be either a passive, as it is rendered in the Authorized Version, "Are ye made perfect," i.e. "Are ye seeking to be made perfect;" so the Revised Version, "Are ye now perfected;" or a middle verb, as ἐπιτελοῦμαι is often used in other writers, though nowhere in the New Testament or Septuagint. The latter seems the more suitable, with the understood suppletion of "your course" or "your estate," as in our English word "finishing." The apostle is partial to the deponent form of verbs.
Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain (τοσαῦτα ἐπάθετε εἰκῆ εἴγε καὶ εἰκῆ); did ye suffer all those troubles for nought? if indeed really for nought. The ambiguity of τοσαῦτα, which means either "so many" or "so great," is preserved by the rendering all those. The Revisers put so many in the text, and "or so great" in the margin. In respect to ἐπάθετε, the leading of the context in which the verse is embedded might incline us to take the verb in the sense in which it frequently occurs in Greek writers, that of being subjects of such and such treatment, good as well as bad; as, for example, in Josephus, 'Ant.,' Galatians 3:15, Galatians 3:1, Ὅσα παθόντες ἐξ αὐτοῦ καὶ πηλικῶν εὐεργσιῶν μεταλαβόντες, "What treatment having received from him [sc. God], and what huge benefits having partaken of"—the character of the treatment being sufficiently indicated by the context as being that of kindness. But it is a fatal objection to this view of the passage that, in the forty passages or more in which the verb πάσχω is used in the New Testament, it never is used of good treatment, but always of bad; and so also always in the Septuagint. We are, therefore, shut up to the sense of "suffering ills," and must endeavour to find, if we can, some circumstances marking the troubles referred to which might serve to explain the seemingly abrupt mention of them here. And the probable explanation is this: those sufferings were brought upon the Galatian converts, not only through the influence of Jews, but also in consequence of the bitter enmity with which the Jews regarded St. Paul, as bringing converts over from among the Gentiles to the service of the one true God apart from any regard to the ceremonial Law of Moses. That Jews in general did thus regard St. Paul is shown by the suspicion which even Christian Jews felt towards him (Acts 21:21). For this no doubt, it was that the Jews in Asia Minor persecuted him from city to city as they did, their animosity against him extending itself also to these who had attached themselves to him as his disciples. That it did extend itself to his disciples as such appears, as from the nature of the case, so also from Acts 14:22, "That through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God;" as also it is evinced by the strongly indignant tone in which he speaks of the persecuting Jews in his two Epistles to the Thessalonians, written near the very time to which he here alludes (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8, 2 Thessalonians 1:9)—this indignation being best accounted for by the supposition that it was roused by his sympathy with the similarly originated sufferings of the Macedonian brethren to whom he was writing. That the troubles here referred to emanated from the hostility of Jewish legalists may be further gathered from Galatians 5:11; Galatians 6:12 (on which see Exposition). Those Jewish legalists hated both St. Paul and his converts, because they alike walked in "the Spirit," that is, in the element of Christian spirituality emancipated from the bondage of the Law, and not in "the flesh" of Mosaic ceremonialism. Hence it is that the mention in Galatians 6:3 of the Galatian brethren having "begun with the Spirit," leads him on to the thought of the sufferings which just on that very account had been brought upon them. "For nought." This adverb εἰκῆ sometimes means, prospectively, "to no good," as in Galatians 4:11, "bestowed labour upon you in vain," and probably in 1 Corinthians 15:2; sometimes, retrospectively, "for no just cause," as in Colossians 2:18, "vainly puffed up." The English phrase, "for nought," has just a similar ambiguity. The apostle may, therefore, mean either this—Did ye suffer all these troubles to reap after all no benefit from your suffering them, forfeiting as you do (Galatians 5:4) the reward which you might else have expected from the great Retributor (2 Thessalonians 1:6, 2 Thessalonians 1:7) through your forsaking that ground of faith on which ye then stood, if indeed ye have forsaken it? or this—Did ye provoke all that persecution without just cause?—if, indeed, there was no just cause as ye seem now to think. According to the former view, the Galatians were now nullifying the benefit which might have accrued to them from their former endurance of persecution; according to the latter, they were now stultifying their former conduct in provoking these persecutions. The first seems somewhat the easiest. Εἴ γε, as in Colossians 1:23. The concluding clause has been here regarded as a reaching forth of the apostle's soul towards the hope that better thoughts might yet prevail with the Galatian waverers, so that they would not lose the reward of having suffered for Christ—a hope which he thus glances at, if so be he might thus lure them to its realization. But another view of the words has commended itself to not a few eminent critics, namely, that the apostle glances at the darker prospect; as if he had said, "If it be, indeed, merely for nought, and not for far worse than that! By falling away from the gospel, ye not only lose the crown of confessorship: ye forfeit also your hope of your heavenly inheritance" (cf. Galatians 5:4). The conjunction καὶ is, confessedly, sometimes almost equivalent to "merely," "only," as e.g. in Homer, 'Odyssey,' 1:58, Ἱέμενος καὶ καπνὸν ἀποθρώσκοντα νοῆσαι ἧς γαίης, "Longing if only but to see the smoke leaping upward from his native land." But in the present case εἴ γε does not so readily suggest the last proposed suppletion of thought as it does the other.
He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you (ὁ οὖν ἐπιχορηγῶν ὑμῖν τὸ Πνεῦμα καὶ ἐνεργῶν δυνάμεις ἐν ὑμῖν); he then that sup-plieth to you the Spirit and worketh powers in you, or, miracles among you. The "then" marks the taking up afresh of the topic brought forward in Galatians 3:2, with especial prominence given here to the miraculous manifestations of the Spirit's presence. The argumentative treatment of this topic of the gift of the Spirit was interrupted in Galatians 3:3 and Galatians 3:4 by curt, strongly emotional interrogatories, darted forth upon the apostle's recollecting the animated spirituality which marked those early days of their discipleship. The impassioned desultoriness of his language here, together with its abrupt, niggardly wording, is paralleled by Galatians 4:10-20. Perhaps these features in the form of the composition were in part occasioned by the circumstance that he was writing this Epistle with his own hand and not through an amanuensis; such manual exertion being, it should seem, unusual with him, and from some cause even laborious and painful: and so from time to time he appears, as it were, laying down the pen, to rest, to quell emotion, to reflect. The compound verb ἐπιχορηγεῖν, supply, differs probably from the simple form χορηγεῖν only by indicating profusion in the supply; but this qualification of its meaning is too slight to be representable in translation. Besides 2Pe 1:5, 2 Peter 1:11, we find it in 2 Corinthians 9:10, "He that supplieth (ὁ ἐπιχορηγῶν) seed … shall supply (χορηγήσει) and multiply your seed for sowing;" Colossians 2:19, "From whom all the body … being supplied;" 1 Peter 4:11, "As of the strength which God sup-plieth." And with similar application the substantive "supply" (ἐπιχορηγία) in Philippians 1:19, "Supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ;" Ephesians 4:16, "Through every joint of the supply." These passages make it clear that "he that supplieth" is no other than God. And this conclusion is borne out by the comparing of the other clause, "worketh powers in you," with 1 Corinthians 12:6, "It is the same God (ὁ ἐνεργῶν who worketh all in all" (referring to the charismata)—which passage shows that "powers' (δυνάμεις) are not "miracles" themselves as in Matthew 7:22 and Matthew 11:20, and often, but power to work miracles, the plural number pointing to the various forms of its manifestation, as in 1Co 12:10, 1 Corinthians 12:28, 1 Corinthians 12:29. The apostle uses the present participles ἐπιχορηγῶν and ἐνεργῶν as describing an agency which the Almighty was continually putting forth among believers in general, including the Galatian Churches themselves. Doeth he it by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith? (ἐξ ἔργων νόμου ἢἐξ ἀκοης πίστεως;) in consequence of works of the Law or of the hearing of faith? With the sparingness of words above noted, the apostle barely jots down, so to speak, the substance of the interrogative dilemma, without filling in the form of the question. The suppletion would naturally be that of our version, "doeth he it." The substance of the argument apparently required no more than, as before, the question—Was it in consequence of works of the Law or of the hearing of faith that the Spirit and his wonder-working powers were received? But instead of putting it so, St. Paul interposes the personality of the great God himself as imparting these great gifts, making his sentence thereby the more stately and impressive: it is with God in the might of his working that these corrupters of the gospel have to reckon. The impartation of the Spirit and the charisms evidenced God's complacency in the recipients. On what was that complacency founded? on their earning it by ceremonial performances, or on their simply opening their hearts to receive his love? It was a question which the Galatian Churchmen might, if they would, see the answer to in experiences of their own. Among themselves these powers had appeared, and no doubt were still operative. "Well, then," says the apostle, "look and see: are they not operative in those only of you who had received them upon the mere acceptance of righteousness offered them through faith in Christ simply, without having given any heed to Mosaic ceremonialism? Have any of you received them after taking up with such ceremonialism?" The apostle, it will be observed—and the remark is one of no small importance—makes an appeal to simple matters of fact, founded upon his and their own familiar acquaintance with the facts, and defying contradiction. We may be sure, therefore, that the facts were as he indicates, however small the extent may be to which we, with our imperfect knowledge of the circumstances, are ourselves able to verify his statement. In some degree, however, we can. Besides the striking illustration afforded by what occurred in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:44), we see that such charismata were bestowed, and in some instances, as, e.g. at Corinth, in exceeding great profusion, in the train of St. Paul's evangelizing ministrations; and how remote those ministrations were from the inculcation, or even the admission, among Gentile converts of Mosaic ceremonialism we know perfectly.
Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness (καθὼς Ἀβραὰμ ἐπίστευσε τῷ Θεῷ καὶ ἐλογίσθη αὐῷ εἰς δικαιοσύνην); was reckoned unto him for righteousness. The answer to the question in the foregoing verse is so obvious that the apostle goes on as if that answer had been given, namely, that it was simply in consequence of the hearing of faith that God conferred on any the Holy Spirit and his powers. This, he now adds, was in exact conformity with what was recorded of Abraham; as soon as Abraham heard the promise made to him, "So shall thy seed be," he believed it, and by the hearing of faith was justified. The mutual correspondence of the two cases lay in this, that in imparting to those believers the Holy Spirit, God showed that they were in his favour, were justified people, simply because of their faith; even as Abraham was shown to be in his favour, having likewise by faith been justified. The apostle weaves into his sentence the very words of Genesis 15:6, as they appear in the Septuagint, with scarcely any modification; the Septuagint reading thus: Καὶ ἐπίστευσεν Αβραμ τῷ Θεῷ καὶ ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικαιοσύνην. But in doing so he both himself feels, and will have his readers feel, that they are words of Scripture from which, as such, reliable conclusions might be drawn, as is shown by the next verse. In the Hebrew, however, the passage runs as in our Authorized Version, "He believed in the Lord, and he accounted it to him for righteousness." The words are quoted with substantially the like agreement with the Septuagint and divergence from the Hebrew also in Romans 4:3, and by St. James in his Epistle (James 2:23) (ἐπίστευσε δὲ Ἀβραὰμ, etc.). "It was reckoned;" in the Hebrew, "he reckoned it;" "it," that is, his believing: God regarded it as imparting to him perfect acceptableness, his sins no longer disqualifying him for being an object of the Divine favour. It is of the greatest importance to take note what the kind of faith was which God reckoned to him for righteousness. It was not simply a persuasion that what God says must be true. As Calvin remarks, Cain might have a hundred times exercised faith in what God had said to him, without thereby receiving righteousness from God. The reason why Abraham was justified by believing was this: a promise had been given him by God of his fatherly goodness towards him; and this word of God's he embraced as certainty. The faith, therefore, which the apostle is thinking of is the faith which has respect to some word of God which is of such a sort that reliance upon it will enable a man to repose in God's love to him for time and for eternity. The reference to Abraham's case which St. Paul makes in such very brief terms he expands in the fourth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans to a considerable length, ending with these words: "Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was reckoned to him [for righteousness]; but for our sake also, unto whom it shall be reckoned, who believe on him that raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up for our offences, and was raised for our justification." Christ's death and resurrection are God's word and guarantee to the whole human race, assuring us of his forgiveness and of his offer to us of eternal life. If we hear this word with faith, committing ourselves to his love, God on that ground at once justifies also us. It is evident that, in the apostle's view, the word "righteousness," as used in the recited passage of Genesis, does not mean "a righteous act,"—that is, that Abraham's believing God's promise was viewed by Heaven with approval; but complete acceptableness investing Abraham himself. In consideration of that exercise of faith God accounted him a righteous man. The Greek phrase, ἐλογίσθη εἰς δικαιοσύνην, "was reckoned for righteousness," i.e. reckoned as being righteousness, is similar to λογισθῆναι εἰς οὐδέν, "reckoned as nought" (Acts 19:27); εἰς περιτομὴν λογισθήσεται, "reckoned for circumcision" (Romans 2:26); λογίζεται εἰς σπέρμα, "reckoned for a seed" (Romans 9:8). Are we to lifter from these two verses, 5 and 6, that in the apostle's view all who received spiritual gifts were thereby proved to be, or to have been, justified persons and in enjoyment of the Divine favour? We can hardly think this. The phenomena disclosed to us in the two Epistles addressed to the Corinthians. as to the moral and spiritual behaviour of some at least of their body, tend to show that individuals possessed of charisms were found in some instances to make a very vainglorious use of them, and needed to be reminded that the thaumaturgic gifts were of a fleeting character and of incomparably less value than qualities of moral goodness. Certainly Christ himself has told us that "many" will at the last be found to have been possessed of such miraculous gifts, whom nevertheless he "never knew." One of the very apostles was a Judas. Perhaps the solution is this: companies of men were dealt with in the diffusion of these gifts according as they were characterized, viewed each as a whole, though there might be individuals in each company imperfectly, very superficially, some perhaps not at all, animated by the sentiment generally prevailing in the body. If a community as a whole was pervaded extensively by a spirit of frank acceptance of the gospel doctrine and of pious devotion, its members brought by baptism into the "body which is Christ," the Holy Spirit made such a community his habitation (1 Corinthians 3:16, 1Co 3:17; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16), and diffused his gifts among its members diversely and to all appearance Indiscriminately (1 Corinthians 12:13); at all events not in such wise discriminately as that degrees of personal holiness and acceptableness before God could at all be estimated as standing in proportion to the outward brilliancy of thaumaturgie gifts severally possessed.
Know ye therefore (γινώσκετε ἄρα); or, ye perceive then. Critics are divided between the two renderings, the imperative and the indicative, both here and Matthew 24:43; 1 John 2:29. In Luke 10:11 and Hebrews 13:23 γινώσκετε is certainly imperative. The categorical imperative seems of the two the more suited to the apostle's impetuous temperament. The verb γινώσκω, like the Latin nosco, properly denotes "to come to know," "learn," "perceive," "get apprised;" ἔγνωκα or ἔγνων, like now, having more properly the sense of "knowing." But this distinction does not always hold, as e.g. Romans 7:1. That they which are of faith (ὅτι οἱ ἐκ πίστεως); that the men of faith; that is, who derive their position from faith, belong to faith, are above all things characterized by faith. Compare the expressions, τοῖς ἐξ ἐριθείας, "the men of factiousness, i.e. "factions men" (Romans 2:8); τὸ ἐκ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ, "the man of faith in Jesus," taking his stand thereupon (Romans 3:26). Closely affine to this usage of the preposition, if not quite the same, is, ὁ ὢν ἐκ τῆς ἀληθείας, "that is of the truth" (John 18:37); οἱ ἐκ νόμου, "they which are of the Law" (Romans 4:14); ὅσοι ἐξ ἔργων νόμου εἰσίν, (Romans 7:10 of this chapter). The same are the children of Abraham (οὗτοί εἰσιν υἱοὶ Ἀβραάμ); these are sons of Abraham. The form of expression is precisely the same as in Romans 8:14, "As many as are led by the Spirit of God (οὗτοί εἰσιν υἱοὶ Θεού) these are sons of God." In both cases the absence of the article before viol suggests the feeling that the apostle is simply stating a predicate of the class before defined, but not now affirming that this predicate is confined to that class, although, again in each case, he knew that it was so confined. Just here, what he is concerned to affirm is that the possession of faith is a complete and sufficient qualification for sonship to Abraham. There is, perhaps, a polemical reference to the teaching of certain in Galatia, that, to be sons of Abraham or interested in God's covenant with his people, it behoved men to be circumcised and to observe the ceremonial Law. This error would be satisfactorily met by the affirmation of the present verse, that the being believers, simply this, constitutes men sons of Abraham. In the tenth verse the apostle goes further, aggressively denying to those who "were of the works of the Law" the possession at all of Abrahamic privilege. The class, "men of faith," did in fact include Jewish believers as well as Gentile; but just hero, as seems probable from what is said in the next verse, the apostle has in view Gentile believers only. The writer's thoughts are hovering round that promise of God ("So shall thy seed be") which had been on that particular occasion the object of Abraham's faith. That this was the case we may infer from his citation of the words in Romans 4:18, the explanation of which had been prepared for by him in what he has said before in Romans 4:16, "To the end that the promise may be sure to all the seed: not to that only which is of the Law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all." It was this that led him to speak of being sons of Abraham. This train of thought is pursued further in the next two verses.
The substance of this verse, taken in conjunction with the next, is this: The announcement which the Scripture records as made to Abraham, that "in him all the nations should be blessed," that is, that by being like him in faith all nations should be blessed like him, did thus early preach to Abraham that which is the great cardinal truth of the gospel preached now: it proceeded upon a foresight of the fact now coming to pass, that by faith simply God would justify the Gentiles. As well as the Scripture quoted before from Genesis 15:1-21., so this announcement also ascertains to us the position that they that are of faith, and they alone, are blessed with the believing patriarch. Such appears to be the general scope of the passage; but the verbal details are not free from difficulty. And the Scripture, foreseeing (προΐδοῦσα δὲ ἡ γραφή); and, again, the Scripture, foreseeing. The conjunction δὲ indicates transition to another item of proof, as, e.g. in Romans 9:27, Ἡσαίας δέ. The word "Scripture" in 2 Peter 1:20, "no prophecy of Scripture," certainly denotes the sacred writings as taken collectively, that is, what is frequently recited by the plural, αἱ γραφαί, "the Scriptures.'' So probably in Acts 8:22, "the passage of Scripture." We are, therefore, war, anted in supposing it possible, and being possible it is here also probable, that this is the sense in which the apostle now uses the term as well as in Acts 8:22, rather than as denoting, either the one particular passage cited or the particular book out of which it is taken. This view better suits the personification under which the Old Testament is hero presented. This personification groups with that in Romans 9:17, "The Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, For this very purpose did I raise thee up." In both cases the "Scripture" is put in place of the announcement which Scripture records as having been made, the Scripture itself being written after the time of both Abraham and Pharaoh, and not addressed to them. But hero there is the additional feature, of foresight being attributed to Scripture—a foresight, net exactly of the Holy Spirit inspiring the Scripture, but of the Divine Being who, on the occasion referred to, was holding communication with Abraham; although, yet again, "the Scripture'' seems in the words, "foreseeing that God would justify," etc., distinguished from "God." The sense, however, is clear; Scripture shows that, as early as the time of Abraham, a Divine intimation was given that God would, on the ground of faith simply, justify any human being throughout the world that should believe in him as Abraham did. Rabbinical scholars tell us that in those writings a citation from Scripture is frequently introduced with the words, "What sees the Scripture?" or, "What sees he [or, 'it']?" That God would justify the heathen through faith (ὅτι ἐκ πίστεως διακαιοῖ τὰ ἔθνη ὁ Θεός); that by (Greek, out of) faith would God justify the nations. The position of ἐκ πίστεως betokens that the apostle's point here is, not that God would justify the Gentiles, but that it was by faith that he would do so irrespectively of any fulfilment on their part of ceremonial observances. The tense of the present indicative δικαιοῖ is hardly to be explained thus: would justify as we now see he is doing. The usual effect of the oratio obliqua transfers the standpoint of time in δικαιοῖ to the time of the foresight, the present tense being put instead of the future (δικαιώσει), as intimating that God was, so to speak, even now preparing thus to justify, or, in the Divine estimate of spaces of time, was on the eve of thus justifying; analogously with the force of the present tense in the participles "given" and "poured out" (διδόμεν ἐκχυνόμενον) in Luke 22:19, Luke 22:20. The condition of mankind in the meanwhile is described in Luke 22:22, Luke 22:23—shut up unto the faith that was to be revealed. A question arises as to the exact interpretation of the word ἔθνη as twice occurring in this verse. Does the apostle use it as the correlative to Jews, "Gentiles;" or without any such sense of contradistinction, "nations" including both Jews anti Gentiles? In answer, we observe:
(1) The great point in these verses (6-9) is, not the call of the Gentiles, but the efficacy of faith without Levitical ceremonialism, as summed up in the words of Luke 22:9.
(2) The original passage which the apostle is now referring to is that in Genesis 12:3, where the Septuagint, conformably with the Hebrew, has Καὶ ἐνευλογηθήσονται ἐν σοὶ πᾶσαι αἱ φυλὰι τῆς γῆς: in our Authorized Version," And in thee shall all families [Hebrew, mishpechōth] of the earth be blessed:" only, through some cause or other, instead of "all families," he writes the words, "all nations" (πάντα τὰ ἔθνη), which we find in what was said by the Lord to the two angels (Genesis 18:18), Καὶ ἐνευλογηθήσονται ἐν αὐτῷ [that is, Abraham] πάντα τὰ ἔθνη τῆς γῆς: Authorized Version, "all the nations of the earth" (Genesis 22:18, and the promise to Isaac, Genesis 26:4, are irrelevant to the point now under consideration). We, therefore, are warranted in assuming that, as ἔθνη might be used as coextensive with φυλαί ("families"), it really is here employed by the apostle with the same extension of application. We may add that, most certainly, the apostle utterly repudiated the notion that God justifies Gentiles on a different footing from that on which he justifies Jews: whether Jews or Gentiles, they only who are of faith are blessed with Abraham; and, whether Jews or Gentiles all who are of faith are blessed with him. Preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying (προευηγγελίσατο τῷ Ἀβραάμ ὅτι); preached the gospel beforehand unto Abraham, saying. Very striking and animated is the apostle's use of this word προευηγγελίσατο, a compound verb, minted no doubt for the occasion out of his own ardent thought, though it is found also in his senior contemporary, Philo. It is plainly an allusion to the "gospel" now openly proclaimed to the world as having been "by anticipation" already then announced to Abraham, the Most High himself the herald; signifying also the joy which it brought to the patriarch, and (Chrysostom adds) his great desire for its accomplishment. Tim blessed and glorious gospel of the grace of God has been the thought of God in all ages. May we connect with this the mysterious passage in Joh 8:1-59 :567 In point of construction, the verb εὐαγγελίζομαι is nowhere else followed by ὅτι: but as it is sometimes found governing an accusative of the matter preached (Luke 1:19; Luke 2:10; Acts 5:42; Acts 8:12; Ephesians 2:17), there is no harshness in its construction with ὅτι, which we may here represent in English by "saying." In thee shall all nations be blessed (ἐνευλογηθήσονται [Receptus, εὐλογηθήσονται] ἐν σοὶ πάντα τὰ ἔθνη). "In thee" as their type and pattern, in respect both to the "blessing" bestowed upon him and to the faith out of which his blessing sprang. The "blessing" consists of God's love and all the well-being which can flow from God's love; the form of well-being varying according to the believer's circumstances, whether in this life or in the life to come; it receives its consummation with the final utterance, "Come, ye blessed (εὐλογημένοι) of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Into this condition of blessedness the sinful and guilty can only be brought through justification; but justification through Christ does of necessary consequence bring us into it. The compound form of the verb, ἐνευλογηθή, added to ἐν σοὶ, forcibly indicates that moral inherency in Abraham, through our being in faith and obedience his spiritual offspring, whereby alone the blessing is attained and possessed. Chrysostom remarks, "If, then, those were Abraham's sons, not who were related to him by blood, but who follow his faith, for this is the meaning of the words, 'In thee all nations,' it is plain that the Gentiles are brought into kindred with him." Augustine explains "in thee," similarly: "To wit, by imitation of his faith by which he was justified even before the sacrament of circumcision." Luther writes "In Abraham are we blessed, but in what Abraham? The believing Abraham, to wit; because if we are not in Abraham, we are under a curse rather, even if we were in Abraham according to the flesh." Calvin likewise: "These words beyond all doubt mean that all must become objects of blessing after Abraham's fashion; for he is the common pattern, nay rather, rule. But he by faith obtained blessing; therefore faith is for all the means."
So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham (ὥστε οἱ ἐκ πίστεως εὐλογοῦνται σὺν τῷ πιστῷ Ἀβραάμ) "Are blessed;" are objects of benediction. The apostle gathers from the words cited in Galatians 3:8 the two particulars, that there are who get to be blessed like Abraham and with him, and that it is by faith like Abraham's, without works of the Law, that they do so. He seems to have an eye to the sense of Divine benediction which the Galatians had themselves experienced, when upon their simply believing in Christ the Spirit's gifts had been poured forth upon them. The word "faithful" (πιστῷ) is inserted, ex abundanti almost, to mark the more explicitly and emphatically, the condition on which both Abraham and therefore others in him gain the blessing. This being "in Abraham," which is here predicated of all who gain justification and God's benediction, is analogous to the image of Gentiles, being by faith "grafted," and by faith abiding, in the "olive tree," which we have in Romans 11:17, Romans 11:20. The verbal πιστὸς is generally passive, "one to be believed or trusted in," and so a man "of fidelity;" but it is also at times active, in the sense of "one who believes," as John 20:27; Act 10:45; 2 Corinthians 6:15; Ephesians 1:1; 1 Timothy 4:10; 1 Timothy 5:16; 1 Timothy 6:2 (so in ἄπιστος, John 20:27; ὀλιγόπιστος, Matthew 6:30). In consequence of this use of the term in Scripture, both fidelis in ecclesiastical Latin and "faithful" in English have often this signification.
For as many as are of the works of the Law are under the curse (ὅσοι γὰρ ἐξ ἔργων νόμου εἰσίν ὐπὸ κατάραν εἰσίν); under a curse, or, under cursing. "For." The apostle is now making the clause in the preceding verse, "they who are of faith," the limiting description of those who "are blessed with faithful Abraham;"—I say, they who are of faith; for they who are of the works of the Law are in a very different case. In the phrase, "are of the works of the Law," the preposition "of" (ἐκ) has the same force as has been already noted in the phrase (Galatians 3:9), "they who are of faith;" it signifies dependence upon, belonging to, taking position from; and it marks a moral posture of mind voluntarily assumed. The apostle in laying down the aphorism of the present passage has doubtless an eye to those of the Galatians who were moving for the adoption of circumcision and the ceremonies of the Levitical Law. Withdrawing from the category of those who were of faith, they were preparing to join those who were of the works of the Law. If their taking up with circumcision, and with these or those of the Levitical ordinances, was not mere childish trifling; if in serious and solemn earnest it meant anything, it meant this—that they looked to gain from these observances acceptableness before God, as performing works commanded by his Law given through Moses; but in that view they were bound to take the Law in its entirety, and do every work which it prescribed, ceremonial and moral alike; for all of it came invested with the like authority and as a part of that institution was alike binding (see Galatians 5:3). Let them now consider well how in such circumstances their case would stand. That the "works of the Law" which stand foremost before the apostle's view in the present discussion are those of a ceremonial character is apparent from the tenor both of verses 12-19 of the preceding chapter and of verses 1-10 of the next. There is, indeed, generally tiffs difference observable between the phase of the Law regarded in this Epistle, as compared with that which engages the apostle's thoughts when writing to the Romans: in the Romans the prominent notion of the spiritual condition of those under the Law is that they are in a state of guiltiness, condemnation, spiritual inability, unconquered sin; while in the Galatians the prominent notion of their condition is that they are in a state of slavery, that the dispensation they are under is spiritually an enslaving one, a yoke of bondage (Galatians 3:24; Galatians 4:1-3, Galatians 4:9, Galatians 4:24, Galatians 4:31; Galatians 5:1, Galatians 5:13). In the Romans the moral aspect of the Law is mostly in view; in this Epistle its ceremonial aspect. The consideration of these distinctive features marking this Epistle will perhaps prepare us the more readily to apprehend the particular shade of meaning with which the apostle uses the words, "are under cursing." He means, not precisely that a curse has already been definitely pronounced upon them so that they now stand there condemned, but that the threatening of a curse is always sounding in their ears, filling them with uneasiness, with constant apprehension that they shall themselves fall under it. The noun κατάρα is thus used for malediction, cursing, in James 3:9, James 3:10, "Therewith bless we the Lord and Father; and therewith curse we men;… out of the same mouth cometh forth blessing and cursing (εὐλογία καὶ κατάρα);" Deuteronomy 27:13, "These shall stand (ἐπὶ τῆς κατάρας) for the cursing upon Mount Ebal"—that is, for the denouncement of the several curses with which they were to threaten different classes of transgressors. As many, says the apostle, as are of the works of the Law are under a black cloud of malediction, which is ready to flash forth in lightning wrath upon every failure in obedience. And what man of them all can hope not to merit that inexorable lighting down of judgment? Supposing them to be ever so exact and punctual in their observance of those ordinances of the flesh which certain of those Galatian Churchmen are hankering after, how will it fare with them in respect to those other weightier precepts of the Law which require spiritual obedience? For one single example, how will they be able to render unfailing obedience to the commandment, Thou shalt not covet? Beyond question, the apostle writes with the sense which he has so fully developed in his Epistle to the Romans (Romans 3:9-20; Romans 7:7-24; Romans 8:3), that no one under the economy of the Law ever did, or ever could, continue in all things which were written in the Law to do them; and that therefore they that forsook the gospel of Christ to look to the Law for acceptance with God would beyond doubt become, nay, taken as they were at any moment had already become, each individual, the specific object of malediction, a child of cursing, a child of wrath (2 Peter 2:14; Ephesians 2:3; Romans 4:15). Nevertheless, his purpose just here may be presumed to be, not to affirm this, but rather to point to the miserable state of apprehensiveness and fear of instant wrath which they who were of the works of the Law must needs be in bondage to. Most commentators, however, understand κατάρα as meaning, not "cursing" or uttering general sentences of cursing (maledictio), but "a curse" (maledictum), that is, a specific curse incurred already by each individual in consequence of his having of a certainty already sinned against some commandment of the Law; if not against some ceremonial commandment, at any rate against some moral precept. Whichever way we understand it, such (the apostle at all events means) was the condition into which those Judaizing Gentile converts were preparing to precipitate themselves. For it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the Law to do them (γέγραπται γὰρ ὅτι [Receptus has γὰρ without ὅτι, which conjunction is according to the Greek usage introduced superfluously] Ἐπικατάρατος πᾶς ὃς οὐκ ἐμμένει ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς γεγραμμένοις ἐν τῷ βιβλίῳ τοῦ νόμου τοῦ ποιῆσαι αὐτά). The Septuagint (Deuteronomy 27:26) has Ἐπικατάρατος πᾶς ὁ [this ὁ of doubtful genuineness] ἄνθρωπος ὅστις οὐκ ἐμμενεῖ [or ἐμμένει] ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς λόγοις τοῦ νόμου τούτου τοῦ ποιῆσαι αὐτούς. The Hebrew is correctly given in the Authorized Version, "Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this Law to do them." The apostle, quoting the Septuagint apparently from memory, gives the general sense rather than the exact words. He that sins against a commandment, as he does not "continue in" it, but departs from it, so also, he, as far as his action reaches, sets it aside or abrogates it instead of "confirming" it. The word "all," not found in our present Hebrew text, is stated by critics to be in the Samaritan as well as in the Septuagint. This is the last of the twelve several maledictions pronounced from Mount Ebal, and certainly includes in its scope the ceremonial as well as the moral precepts of the Law. But what did this malediction import? Certainly it expressed abhorrence—the Divine Author of the Law, and his ministers and people accepting, pronouncing, and ratifying the denunciation, all join in repudiating the offender, casting him out from among them with loathing: so much is clear. What practical effect was to be given to the malediction, even by men in this life, not to speak of the action of God hereafter in the life to come, is nowhere indicated; but all could see thus much—the offender, if dying unreconciled, would depart hence accursed of both man and God. The notion of guiltiness before God and accursedness incurred by transgression of merely ceremonial precepts has been so greatly effaced from men's consciousness by the teaching, direct and indirect, of Christ's gospel, that we find it hard to realize to our minds that there ever existed a posture of the spirit answering to such a notion, or. if such did exist, that it could be other than the fruit of an uninstructed, ill-trained state of the conscience. But it was not this, so long as the economy of Moses was in force. For these positive laws were laws of God, binding during his pleasure upon the conscience of every Israelite; and in proportion as an Israelite's consciousness of the existence of Jehovah and of his own covenant relation to Jehovah was real and vivid, in that proportion would he be careful, scrupulously careful even, in obeying those positive laws. He had, indeed, to duly estimate the comparative importance and obligation of positive and of moral precepts, especially when in actual practice they came into conflict, according to the principle laid down for example in Hosea 6:6; but it was at his peril that he at any time neglected the former, though still less might he dare to neglect the latter. For every Israelite, as long as the Law continued in force, that which was said by Christ was strictly true, and in both clauses meant to be taken in solemn earnest, "These latter ought he to do, and not to leave the other undone" (Matthew 23:23). It was, for instance, a matter of conscience for the truly conscientious Israelite to carefully purify himself from pollution incurred by contact with the dead, and to abstain from swine's flesh; he might not neglect such purifications or partake of such meat without breaking a commandment of God's, without therefore incurring God's displeasure; and it behoved him to feel that he could not, and in proportion to the sincerity and depth of his religious sentiment he did feel it. Now, even when Israelites lived in a world of their own, comparatively free from the presence of Gentiles, the observance of the Levitical Law must needs have been at times felt to be an irksome or even anxious obligation; but its irksomeness and anxiety must have been greatly increased when Gentiles were not merely brought into close contact with them, but were even their masters. St. Peter confessed how burdensome it was felt to be, when he pronounced it a yoke which neither they nor their fathers had been able to bear. The feeling of relief must therefore have been inexpressibly great when an Israelite could come to be assured that those positive laws had ceased to be obligatory; that even if from habit or from national or social sentiment he continued to observe them, yet his conscience was quite free to disregard them without fear of displeasing God; that God's covenanted mercy had no longer any reference whatever to such observances, and that he might worship him acceptably, and hold joyful communion with him (say) in the Lord's Supper, though he had just before been handling a corpse without being since purified, or eating "unclean" meats, or working on the sabbath day. This relief the gospel brought; God's servants learnt with joy that they were righteous and accepted before him simply through faith in Christ without those "works of the Law." The curse was reversed. Now it ran thus: "Anathema be he who doth not wholly trust in Christ crucified for righteousness! Anathema be he who brings dead ordinances of the Law to darken his brethren's joy!"
But that no man is justified by the Law in the sight of God, it is evident (ὅτι δὲ ἐν νόμῳ οὐδεὶς δικαιοῦται παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ); but that in the Law no man is justified with God, is evident. To "be justified" means to be brought out of a state of guiltiness and cursedness into a state of acceptance. The apostle, assuming that every one is guilty and under a curse, now shows that the Law offers no means of justification. "But." The apostle is meeting the notion that, though one who is of works of the Law is evermore threatened with a curse ready to light down upon him, and though the curse has been, as it cannot but have been, actually incurred, yet, by setting himself afresh to the endeavour and thenceforward continuing steadfast in all things written in the Law, he may thus win pardon and righteousness with God. To obviate this conception, without stopping to insist upon the fact that through indwelling sin no man possibly can continue in all the things written in the Law, he puts the notion aside by stating that this is not the method of justification which Scripture recognizes. This he shows by adducing that cardinal aphorism of Habakkuk, by which, as it should seem, the apostle was wont to substantiate the doctrine of justification by faith (comp. Romans 1:17; Hebrews 10:38). The way in which the passage is here introduced, almost as an obiter dictum, and as if not needing a formal indication of its coming out of Scripture, suggests the feeling that the passage, as taken in the sense in which the apostle reads it, was one already familiar to his readers, no doubt through his own former teaching. When in the Acts (Acts 13:39-41) we read that in the synagogue at the Pisidian Antioch, in close connection with the statement that through believing in Christ a man is justified, he cited another passage of Habakkuk (Habakkuk 1:5), denouncing unbelieving despisers, we cannot doubt that he had made good his statement about justification by alleging this same probative text. "In the Law;" that is, as being it. the sphere and domain of the Law. Compare the use of the same preposition: Romans 2:12, "As many as have sinned under [Greek, 'in'] the Law;" Romans 3:19, "It saith to them that are under [Greek, 'in'] the Law." An exactly parallel construction is found in Acts 13:39, "From all things from which ye could not by [Greek, 'in'] the Law be justified." They could not as being in the Law find therein any means of gaining acceptance. "Is justified with God;" comes to be accounted righteous with him. "With God;" not merely outwardly, Levitically, in the judgment of a Levitical priest—but inwardly and in reality, in God's estimation. The preposition "with" (παρά) is used similarly in Romans 2:13, "For not the hearers of the Law are righteous with God;" 1 Corinthians 2:1-16:19, "The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God." It is God himself that justifies the sinner (Romans 3:30; Romans 4:5); but the apostle does not write "is justified by God," because he is confronting the notion so natural to man, and above all, to the Judaizing legalist, that a man is to make himself righteous by doings—ceremonial or moral—of his own. For, The just shall live by faith (ὁ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται); the righteous by faith shall live. The apostle is not weaving the prophet's words into his own sentence simply as aptly expressing his own thought, but is citing them probatively as words of Scripture; as if he had said, "As Scripture saith, The righteous," etc. The same is the case with the words introduced in the next verse out of Leviticus; so Romans 9:7. In Romans 15:3 and 1 Corinthians 2:9 the apostle inserts, "according as it is written," as in parenthesis, before adding the words of Scripture in such a way as to form a continuation of his own sentence. "The righteous by faith shall live;" that is, the righteous man shall draw his life from his faith. It is generally agreed upon by Hebrew scholars that in the original passage (Habakkuk 2:4) the words, "by his faith" (or possibly, adopting another reading of the Hebrew text, "by my faith," that is, by faith in me) belong to "shall live," rather than to "the righteous" (see on this point Delitzsch on Hebrews 10:38, and Canon Cook on Habakkuk 2:4, in 'Speaker's Commentary'). And that St. Paul so understood it is made probable by the contrasted citation of" shall live in them "in the next verse. With this conjunction of the words, the passage suits the apostle's purpose perfect]y; for if it is by or from his faith that the righteous man lives, then it is by or from his faith that he gets to be accepted by God as righteous. The "faith" spoken of is shown by the context in Habakkuk to mean such reliance upon God as is of a steadfast character, and not a mere fleeting or occasional acceptance of God's promises as true. This is plainly the view of the passage which is taken by the Pauline writer of the Hebrews in Hebrews 10:38.
And the Law is not of faith (ὁ δὲ νόμος οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ πίστεως); but the Law is not "by faith." This is closely connected with the latter part of the preceding verse, as forming another portion of the proof which is there introduced by "for." Galatians 3:11 should end with a semicolon, not with a full stop. The δὲ at the beginning of this verse is slightly adversative, setting "the Law" in contrast with the notion of "living by or from faith." These words, "by or from faith" (ἐκ πίστεως), are borrowed from the preceding citation. We may paraphrase thus: The Law does not put forward as its characteristic principle, "by faith;" the characteristic principle of the Law is rather that which we read in the third book of Moses (18:5)," The man who hath actually done them shall live by them." But, The man that doeth them shall live in them; but, He that doeth them shall live in them. The whole verse (Leviticus 18:5) in the Authorized Version, following the Hebrew, stands thus: "And ye shall keep my statutes and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the Lord." The Septuagint runs thus: "And ye shall keep [or, 'and keep ye'] all my statutes and all my judgments, and ye shall do them [or, 'and do ye them']: the man that doeth them shall live in them (ὁ ποιήσας αὐτὰ ἄνθρωπος ζήσεται ἐν αὐτοῖς) I am the Lord your God." It thus appears that the pronoun "them" recites "my statutes and my judgments." But this the apostle is not at present particularly con-corned to specify; his main point here is that the Law requires such and such things to be actually done, before it holds out the prospect of life to be gained thereby. Those under the Law were bound to render strict obedience to all its requirements, whether moral or ceremonial; and whosoever set aside any of whichever class was constituted by the Law a "transgressor" and a man "accursed." As it stands in the passage of Leviticus referred to, the clause which is cited bears not so much the aspect of a promise as of a restrictive statement implying a threatening or warning, and is therefore its harmony with the commination quoted in verse 10. The "doing" here spoken of differs essentially from evangelical obedience. Comprising as it did its very large proportion the observance of the ceremonial prescriptions (προστάγματα) of the Law, it points to a course of conduct in which a man, striving to earn pardon and acceptance by a meritorious life, had continually to be turning his eye, slavishly and under tear of the "curse" in case of failure, towards an external Law, whose detail of positive enactments, in addition to the regulation of his moral conduct and inward spirit, he was bound with scrupulous exactness to copy in his life. The spiritual obedience of "faith," on the other hand, evolves itself (in the apostle's view) freely and spontaneously from the inward teaching and prompting of God's Spirit, of which it is the natural product or "fruit" (Leviticus 5:1-19:22). Such are these two forms of religious life when viewed each in its idea. When, however, we compare the spiritual state of many even sincere believers in Christ, so far as we can estimate it, with the spiritual state of (say) the marvellous author of Psalms 119:1-176. or of David and other pious Israelites, as disclosed in the exercises of pious feeling garnered in that same devotional book, we cannot fail to perceive that an Israelite under the Law might yet be not "of the works of the Law," but in no small degree qualified to teach the Christian believer himself, even in the life which is "of faith." "Shall live in them;" that is, shall find in them a fountain, as it were, of life. The Targums, Bishop Lightfoot observes, define the meaning of "living" by "life eternal."
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law (Χριστὸς ἡμᾶς ἐξηγόρασεν ἐκ τῆς κατάρας τοῦ νόμου); Christ bought us off from the curse of the Law. The position of the word "Christ" in the Greek, heading the sentence, makes it emphatic—Christ; he alone; no means offered by the Law hath procured justification for the sinner. "Us;" not merely the Israelites after the flesh, who were visibly under the Law: but either all mankind, Gentiles as well as Israelites, being declared by the Law unclean and unholy, both ceremonially and morally, and thus under its curse (comp. "for us," 2 Corinthians 5:21); or God's people, the children of Abraham, prospective as well as present (comp. John 11:50-52 and Galatians 4:5). "Redeemed," or "bought us off." The same compound Greek verb occurs Galatians 4:5, "That he might redeem [buy off] them who were under the Law;" obviously, buy off from being under it. Another Greek verb, λυτρόω, ransom, is rendered "redeem" in Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18; whence the compound verbal noun ἀπλούτρωσις, redemption, in Romans 3:24; Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 1:30, etc. The apostle may be supposed to have preferred to use ἐξαγοράζω here, as pointing more definitely to the price which the Redeemer paid; for in λυτρόω, redeem, this notion of a price paid often lies so far in the background as to leave the verb to denote simply "deliver." The un-compounded verb ἀγοράζω, buy, is found with reference to Christ's death in 1 Corinthians 6:20 and 1 Corinthians 7:23, "Ye were bought with a price;" 2 Peter 2:1, "The Master that bought them;" Revelation 5:9, "Didst purchase unto God with thy blood." In the present passage it is not the blood of Christ, as in 1 Peter 1:18, that is regarded as the purchase money,—for the notion of expiation with blood of sacrifice is not even glanced at; but rather, as the next words show, his taking upon him the accursedness and pollution which by the Law attached to every one crucified. "From the curse of the Law;" its cursing affects us no more. God's people are, in Christ. no longer, as they were before, subject to his disapproval or abhorrence, in consequence of transgressing the positive, ceremonial enactments of the Law of Moses. In respect to that class of transgressions, its cursing expended itself, and perished, upon the crucified body of the Son of God. Being made a curse for us (γενόμενος ὐπὲρ ἡμῶν κατάρα); having become on our behalf a curse. The position of κατάρα makes it emphatic. The form of expression, "become a curse," instead of "become accursed," is chosen to mark the intense degree in which the Law's curse fastened upon the Lord Jesus. Compare the expression, "made him on our behalf sin," in 2 Corinthians 5:21. Probably the form of expression was suggested to the apostle by that found in the Hebrew of the passage of Deuteronomy which he proceeds to cite (see next note but one). The preposition ὑπέρ, "for,… on behalf of," may possibly mean "in place of," as (perhaps) in Philemon 1:13; but this idea would have been more distinctly expressed by ἀντί: and the strict notion of substitution is not necessary to the line of argument here pursued. For it is written (γέγραπται γὰρ). But the more approved reading is ὅτι γέγραπται, because it is written; which more definitely marks the writer's purpose of vindicating the propriety of his using so strong an expression as "becoming a curse." Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree (ἐπικατάρατος πᾶς ὁ κρεμάμενος ἐπὶ ξύλου); or, upon wood (Deuteronomy 21:23). The Septuagint has Κεκατηραμένος [or, Κατηραμένος] ὑπὸ Θεοῦ πᾶς κρεμάμενος [or, πᾶς ὁ κρ.] ξύλου, "Cursed by God is every one hanging on a tree." The Hebrew is qillath elohim talui, "a curse of God is he that is hanged." The words, "every one" and "on a tree," are additions made by the Septuagint; the latter expression, however, is found in the preceding clause, as also in the preceding verse; so that the sense is given rightly. The apostle departs from the Septuagintal rendering of the Hebrew phrase, "a curse of God," probably because he regarded the rendering as inaccurate; for the phrase, "curse of God," is probably a strongly intensive form of expression, like "wrestlings of God," in Genesis 30:8 ("great wrestlings," Authorized Version). See note on "exceeding great city" (Hebrew, "a city great unto God") in Jonah 3:3, in 'Speaker's Commentary.' According to this view, ἐπικατάρατος, in which the element ἐπὶ is intensive, is a just interpretation; while it also makes the clause more striking as an antithesis to the ἐπικατάρατος, etc., in Jonah 3:10. We are, per haps, justified in adding that it would not have exactly suited the apostle's purpose to admit the words," by God;" for, though the Law pronounced the crucified Jesus a "curse," God, in the apostle's feeling, did not in this case ratify the Law's malediction. To understand the bearing of the verse rightly it is necessary to be quite clear as to the sense in which Christ is here said to have become a curse. The context shows that he became a curse simply by hanging upon a tree. No spiritual transaction, such as that of our guilt being laid upon him, comes into view here at all. It was simply the suspension upon a cross that imparted to him, in the eye of the Law, this character of accursedness, of extreme abhorrent defilement. In other words, the accursedness was the extreme of ceremonial pollutedness—ceremonial, with no admixture of guilt or spiritual pollution. It has, indeed, been attempted by critics, Jewish as well as Christian, as Bishop Lightfoot has shown, to justify this aphorism of the Law, by the plea that one thus punished might inferentially be supposed to have merited this form of execution by some especial enormity of guilt. But, plainly, such previous guiltiness might not have been present; the man crucified, or impaled, or hung might have suffered upon a false accusation. But though he bad suffered unjustly, his being gibbeted would, notwithstanding his innocence, constitute him "a curse of God" all the same. Ceremonial pollutedness, as well as ceremonial purity, was altogether independent of moral considerations. And at present the line of thought which the apostle is following relates simply to questions of Levitical or ceremonial purity or defilement. Have Christian believers as such anything to do with these matters? This is the point at issue. The apostle proves that they have nothing to do with them, upon the ground that the crucifixion of Christ did away wholly with the ceremonial Law. It will only confuse the reader if he supposes that the apostle means here to embody the whole doctrine of Christ's sacrificial atonement; he is at present concerned with stating the relation which his passion bore to the Law. The passage before us illustrates the meaning of the words in Galatians 2:19, "I through the Law died unto the Law:" he felt himself disconnected from the ceremonial Law, in consequence of that Law pronouncing Christ crucified "a curse of God." A question arises, how far the crucifixion of Christ, viewed in this particular aspect of its constituting him in the eye of the ceremonial Law an accursed thing, modified for those who believe on him the effect of the malediction which the Law pronounced upon such as violated its moral precepts. The following observations are offered for the reader's consideration. The Law given in the Pentateuch is uniformly spoken of in Scripture as forming one whole. Composed of precepts, some moral, some ceremonial, some partaking mixedly of both qualities, it constituted, however, one entire coherent system. If a part of it was destroyed, the whole Law as such itself perished. If so, then the cross of Christ, by annihilating its ceremonial enactments, shattered in pieces the whole legislation, so that the disciples of Christ are no longer at all under its dominion, or subjects jurisprudentially (so to speak) to its coercive punitive power. Yet its moral precepts, so far as they embodied the eternal principles of rectitude, would, so far, and because they do so, and not because they were part of the Law given through Moses, continue to express the will of God concerning us. Being, however, "letter" and not "spirit," they were always altogether inadequate expressions of that Divine will—a will which is spiritual, 'which is evermore changing its form and aspect towards each human soul, according to the ever-varying conditions of its spiritual position. The moral precepts of the Law are for us no more than types or figures, mere hints or suggestions of the spiritual duties which they refer to; they cannot be regarded as definitively regulative laws at all. Thus they appear to be treated by Christ and his apostles; as e.g. Matthew 5:21-37; 1 Corinthians 9:8-10; and it is in this light that the Church of England regards them, in reciting the Decalogue in her Pre-Communion Office. And, analogously, the curse which the Law pronounces upon those who set any of its precepts at nought, whether moral or ceremonial, may be regarded as a mere type, revealing, or rather giving a slightest most imperfect glimpse of, the wrath with which the Divine justice burns against wilful transgressors of the eternal Law; a hint or suggestion, again, and not its direct denouncement. God's people, however, by being through faith united to the crucified and risen Christ, become through his cross dead to the whole Law of Hoses, both as regulative and as punitive,—freed from it absolutely; not, however, to be without Law unto God; only, the Law they are now under is a spiritual Law, one conformable to the nature of that dispensation of life and of the Spirit, to which through the Risen One they belong. With this view it agrees that the execration which the Law pronounced upon the Son of God as crucified, and by pronouncing which the Law itself perished, is to be regarded as a most significant and impressive symbol of the spiritual import of our Lord's death. It pronounces to the universe that, for those who by faith are one with Christ, the wrath of Divine justice against them as sinners is quenched—quenched in the infinite, Divine love and righteousness of Christ.
Two results are here stated as having flowed from the abrogation of the Mosaic Law which was effected by the crucifixion of Jesus: one, the participation of Gentiles in "Abraham's blessing," to which they could not have been admitted as long as the Law was authorized to shut them out from God's covenant as unclean; the other, the impartation to God's people, upon their faith only, apart from acts of ceremonial obedience, of the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. Are these stated as coordinate results, in the same way as a repeated ἵνα ("in order that") introduces co-ordinate results in Romans 7:13; 2 Corinthians 9:2; Ephesians 6:19, Ephesians 6:20? Or is the second a consequence of the first? In favour of the first view, it may be said that, in point of fact, Gentiles, as such, were not admitted into a participation in Abraham's blessing till some time after the day of Pentecost. But on the other hand, it may be urged
(1) that, though not as yet actually admitted, yet in the Divine purpose, and in the ordering of the conditions of the case, they might have come in,—the door was open, though the threshold not actually crossed; and
(2) that their admissibility may be supposed to have been in the Divine counsels the prerequisite condition of the Holy Spirit being imparted, it not being fitting that the Spirit should be given so long as the Law was, so to speak, standing there, authorized to debar from this, the most essential portion of "Abraham's blessing," any who were partakers of Abraham's blessing. In the three passages referred to as favouring the construing of the two clauses as co-ordinate, we have not as here two different results, but one and the same, only in the second clause more fully described. The second view seems, therefore, the more probable one. That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ (ἵνα εἰς τὰ ἔθνη ἡ εὐλογία τοῦ Ἀβραὰμ γένηται ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ: so most recent editors read, in place of Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ); that upon "the nations" might crone the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus. The phrase, εἰς τὰ ἔθνη … γένητα, is illustrated by the use of γίγνεσθαι εἰς, "arrive at," or "accrue to," in Acts 21:17; Acts 25:15; Revelation 16:2. For the preposition εἰς we may also comp. Romans 3:22, "Unto (εἰς) all and upon (έπὶ) all." By τὰ ἔθνη, as the whole context shows, the apostle means in particular "the Gentiles," the non-Jews, as such. At the same time, the phrase is evidently used, as found ready at hand in the passage cited by him in Romans 3:8, "In thee shall all the nations (ἔθνη) be blessed," which passage also suggested the notion of "the blessing of Abraham." It had therein been foretold that all the nations should, by exercising the faith of Abraham, obtain the same blessing; and (says the apostle) we see now by what method the benefit has been brought to them. "In Christ Jesus;" not merely by him; the blessing is, so to speak, immanent in Christ. both procured by him and obtained by the nations through their coming by faith into union with him. Comp. Ephesians 1:6, Ephesians 1:7, "His grace which he freely bestowed upon us in the Beloved; in whom we have our redemption;" Colossians 2:10, "In him ye are made full;" and the like. "The blessing of Abraham.'' The expression, being drawn from the passages in Genesis in which the Lord assures Abraham that "he would bless him," and that "in him all nations should be blessed," must be taken to import the Divine good will and whatever benefits would therefrom result. Men arrive at t is "benediction" by being justified; but justification is only the entrance into it, and not the whole blessing itself. It is styled Abraham's blessing, as having been emphatically declared to have been possessed by the patriarch, "the father" of all who should thereafter receive it. That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith (ἵνα τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν τοῦ Πνεύματος λάβωμεν διὰ τῆς πίστεως). The pronoun "we" points, not to the Israelites as such, nor to Israelite believers in particular, but to those who were viewed as God's covenant people. These had hitherto been Abraham's natural seed only; and had also hitherto been under the Law. But the time had come when they were to receive the full "adoption of sons," and therewith the Spirit of God's Son (Galatians 4:5, Galatians 4:6); which, however, could not come to pass until the Law, "the yoke of slavery," had been cleared out of the way, opening the gate to God's benediction to all believers, whether Jews or Gentiles. The Law and the Spirit could not coexist. Where the Law had sway, there was tutor-ship (παιδαγωγία) and slavery. Such, it is true, was needed, so long as the Spirit was not there; for moral beings, forming a people of God's, must be under some Law; and, if there was not a law written on the "fleshy tables of the heart" by God's Spirit, there behoved to be one embodied in an outward code of ordinances, which should coerce men's frowardness and keep them under discipline. But when this outward code had been taken out of the way," nailed to Christ's cross," then the people of God could not be left without the Spirit—the Spirit of holiness, as well as, or rather, because also, the Spirit of adoption; which accordingly was forthwith imparted, the sole condition of the bestowment being their living obedient faith, felt and by baptism professed, in Christ and in God. Comp. Ephesians 4:13-18, as containing a full presentment of these facts relative to the introduction of the new covenant, and in the same order of sequence. Thus the apostle has triumphantly returned to the thesis from which he had started in the two first verses of the chapter—Christ crucified, and the receiving of the Spirit without works of the Law. "The promise of the Spirit" is the Spirit which had been promised; the word "promise" here denoting, not as in Hebrews 11:33, the word assuring a subsequent bestowment, but as in Luke 24:49 and Hebrews 11:39, the bestowment itself. The apostle points not merely to such passages of the Old Testament as had definitely fore-announced the outpouring of God's Spirit (Joe 2:1-32 :38; Isaiah 44:3; and the like), but the whole "kingdom of God," or "world to come," whose blessedness therewith came.
Brethren, I speak after the manner of men (ἀδελφοί κατὰ ἄνθρωπον λέγω). "Brethren." The tone of indignant reproach with which the chapter opened has gradually subsided in the course of the apostle's argument; so that here he appeals to the Galatian Churchmen as "brethren; ' as if to bespeak their candid attention to the consideration he is about to allege. "I speak after the manner of men." I say it as stating a principle commonly recognized in human life, in respect to contracts between man and man (see note on the phrase, Galatians 1:11). In a similar manner, in Hebrews 6:16, Hebrews 6:17 the writer refers to human methods of ratifying solemn engagements, in order to illustrate a course of proceeding on another occasion condescendingly adopted by God. Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be (when it hath been) confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto (ὅμως ἀνθρώπου κεκυρωμένην διαθήκην οὐδεὶς ἀθετεῖ ἢἐπιδιατάσσεται). The Authorized Version has thus happily rendered the ὅμως, which is here transposed cut of its logical position, as it is also in 1 Corinthians 14:7, and as ἔτι is in Romans 5:6. The apostle's meaning is that, if even men are constrained by their sense of justice to abide by this rule, much more may the All-righteous One be expected to do so. This a fortiori suggestion (for St. Paul only hints this consideration by introducing the word ὅμως without explicitly developing it) is similar to the a fortiori argument more explicitly stated by our Lord with reference to God's justice, in Luke 18:6, Luke 18:7; and to his fatherliness, in Luke 11:13. "Covenant." The word διαθήκη, properly "disposition," which, in classical Greek, generally means "will," "testament," is used in the Septuagint to render the Hebrew berith, covenant, in which sense it occurs once in Aristophanes, 'Ayes,' 439; and it appears to denote "covenant'' in all the thirty-three places in which it is found in the New Testament; for even Hebrews 9:17 can hardly be allowed to be an exception. Bishop Lightfoot observes that the Septuagint translators and the New Testament writers probably preferred διαθήκη to συνθήκη, the ordinary Greek word for "covenant," when speaking of a Divine dispensation, because, like "promise,'' it better expresses the free grace of God. Perhaps the terms appeared to them more suitable also in this application, because one of the parties to the engagement was no other than the supreme sovereign Disposer of all things. "Confirmed;" ratified; as it were, signed, sealed, and delivered. "No one;" meaning neither of the two covenanting parties. "Addeth thereto;" addeth any fresh condition, such as would clog the action of the previous engagement. The apostle adds this with reference to the supposition that the Law of Moses might have qualified the Abrahamic covenant by limiting its benefits to persons ceremonially clean.
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made (τῷ δὲ Ἀβραὰμ ἐῤῥήθησαν [or, ἐῤῥέθησαν] αἱ ἐπαγγελίαι καὶ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ); now to Abraham were the promises made (Greek, spoken) and to his seed. The question now to be determined is, who the parties were that were concerned in the covenant made with Abraham, and with respect to whom the principle just stated must be taken to apply. Of course, God is himself one of the two parties. This the apostle assumes without specific mention in this verse, though he refers to it in the next. On the other side, he discerns "Abraham and his seed;" for the form of the sentence, we feel, lays emphatic stress upon the latter copartner, tie has in view, apparently, in part, the promise recorded in Genesis 13:15, "All the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever;" perhaps in part the vision related in Genesis 15:1-21., wherein (Genesis 15:18) "the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land," etc.; but most particularly, since on this occasion circumcision was appointed as the "sign of the covenant," the words in Genesis 17:7, Genesis 17:8, "I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee: and I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God." In the present connection the reference is not so obvious to the important pro-raise in Genesis 22:17, Genesis 22:18, on which such stress is laid in Hebrews 6:13-18. These passages, in their primary and plain obvious sense, point to a covenant established by the Lord between himself on the one hand, and Abraham and Abraham's natural seed on the other; ratified on the persons of Abraham and his offspring by the seal of circumcision, and collating to them the gift of the laud of Canaan. But the apostle teaches us to read these passages mystically: in place of Abraham's natural seed substituting "Christ," a spiritual seed; and in place of the land of Canaan substituting a spiritual inheritance. For "covenant," to which term the apostle reverts in the next verse, we have here "promises;" thus also in Hebrews 7:6, Abraham is described as "he that had the promises." He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed (οὐ λέγει Καὶ τοῖς σπέρμασιν ὡς ἐπὶ πολλῶν ἀλλ ὡς ἐφ ἑνός Καὶ τῷ σπέρματί σου). The use of the preposition ἐπὶ with λέγει, as meaning "of," not found elsewhere in the New Testament, occurs repeatedly in Plato (see Ellicott and Alford, and Winer's 'Gram.,' 47, g). With "many" and "one," we are, of course, to supply "seeds" and "seed." It has been questioned whether such a form of expression as "to thy seeds" would have been possible in the Hebrew. Certainly we do not in the Hebrew Bible find a plural of the noun zera) when used for "offspring," but only when used for a grain of seed. But still, such a plural may not have been unknown to St. Paul in the Hebrew spoken in his time; for it occurs, De Wette tells us, in the Chaldee Paraphrast for "races" in Joshua 7:14; Jeremiah 33:24; Genesis 10:18. Such a grammatical cavil to his observation, however, the apostle might well have brushed aside by giving his objector to understand that it was not upon a nicety of lingual criticism that he was taking his stand, but upon a fact which was not to be called in question; namely, that of the many branches of descendants owning Abraham as their progenitor, there was only one contemplated by the Almighty as destined to inherit the promise. This principle of discrimination among several lines of descendants he has himself drawn marked attention to in Romans 9:7, Romans 9:8, by quoting the words, "In Isaac shall thy seed be called," and adding the gloss, "That is, it is not the children of the flesh that are children of God; but the children of the promise are reckoned for a seed." And so here. Among Abraham's descendants one particular head of a race was beforehand selected in the counsels of God, whose issue alone should inherit. As the principle of discriminative predestination was applied with respect to the inheriting of the promises viewed in their secular meaning, so also was it applied with respect to the inheriting of them spiritually: to only one branch of Abraham's descendants did the Divine Disposer guarantee the promised grant; that which should originate from Abraham's great Descendant, Christ, and which was to be in him and by his name to be called. Which is Christ (ὅς ἐστι Χριστός); that is, which seed is Christ; the gender of the relative pronoun, which logically, as reciting a neuter noun, σπέρμα, should be neuter, being according to a very common usage of the language made masculine by the attraction of the predicate Χριστός. The word "seed" still retains its signification of a collective noun, and does not even here denote a single descendant—a sense which usage would not justify us in assigning to it; for even in Genesis 4:25 zera' acher means "other offspring," and not "another offspring." The word "Christ" is itself employed by the apostle as a collective, as in 1 Corinthians 1:13, "Christ is divided!" or, "Is Christ divided?" 1 Corinthians 12:12, "As the body is one, and hath many members … so also is Christ." It is usual in the Hebrew idiom to apply to a people the very name, unmodified, of the head from which they derive; as "Israel," "Jacob," "Ephraim," "Judah," and a large multitude of instances. It is certain from 1 Corinthians 12:27-29 that St. Paul has in view those who are "in Christ" as being in and with him the "seed" to whom the "inheritance" was by that covenant given. Jesus, viewed in his own solitary personality, has no place in the apostle's present argument: he it was not that was to inherit the blessing, save only with, or rather in, that multitude of human beings for whose sake he is there at all. Perhaps it is on that account that his official title "Christ" is alone named, in preference to "Jesus" his appellation as an individual man. Having thus ascertained as definitely as we may what it is that the apostle here states, we are naturally led to consider on what grounds he is justified in affixing to the passage or passages of the Old Testament which he refers to, the sense that he does; both as to the import of the gift which the covenant guaranteed to Abraham's seed and as to the specific seed itself as being" Christ." The answer to such questioning is, for us, at once in a great measure determined by our belief in the claims which St. Paul makes to be regarded as an inspired teacher. With this belief, we do not wait first to ascertain that his exposition is warranted by linguistic or historical reasoning before we will give it our assent. We accept his exposition as one imparted to himself by heavenly teaching, and as the result of inspired spiritual insight gazing into the oracles of God. We refuse to regard it, as some would fain persuade us to do, as mere midrash of unscientific rabbinism. Perhaps, indeed, rabbinism itself in its better schools—and in such St. Paul had himself in his earlier years been trained—was often far more profound and scientific in its scriptural exegesis than many who have not been conversant with Jewish commentators are disposed to imagine. His exposition is, therefore, not at once and of course condemned, because, if indeed it be the fact, its method seems to bear upon it the brand of being rabbinical. Thus much is clear—its substance was beyond all question not drawn from rabbinism, but learnt from higher teaching. If at first it arouses in our minds a feeling of surprise, and even a degree of hesitation in accepting it as it lies there before us, we may have good grounds for suspecting that this is owing, not to our superior wisdom, but to the superficiality of the views which we are in the habit of taking of the histories and utterances found in the Old Testament. Fuller and clearer insight into the depths of inspired teaching will perhaps enable us by-and-by to grasp with a firmer hold than now the veritable reasonableness and certainty of this apostolic word, and to discern its coherency with other portions of revealed truth. Meanwhile it may conciliate our judgment to a more unfaltering acceptance at once of what we here read, if we will consider how transcendently great is the glory of the personage whose Name is here attached to Abraham's spiritual seed, and how transcendent too is the corresponding glory of that economy of benediction which that august Being has brought in. The infinite grandeur of "God manifest in the flesh" imparts its magnificence both to the community which he graciously takes into union with him, and to the "kingdom of God" which through him they inherit. The glory of Christ fills the whole Church, which, resplendent therewith, eclipses into utter obscurity all other communities heretofore promised to be recipient of Divine blessing: those, feeble types of her, fade away at her coming, their glory and very being absorbed in hers. We need, then, not hesitate to believe that she with her Lord was from the beginning contemplated by the Almighty in the revelations of future benediction which he accorded to men, certainly with a view ultimately to this crowning dispensation; and that anterior dispensations of benediction were symbolically predictive of this.
And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ (τοῦτο δὲ λέγω διαθήκην προκεκυρωμένην ὑπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ [Receptus adds, εἰς Χριστόν]); and I say this: a covenant confirmed before of God. We have here the application of the aphorism laid down in Galatians 3:15. "And I say this;" that is," And what I have to say is this." As God had already before made a solemn covenant with Abraham and his seed, the Law given so long after cannot have been intended to do away with it; fundamental principles of even human civil equity disallow of any such procedure. "Confirmed before." If the confirmation or ratification is to be distinguished as additional to the solemn announcement, we may find it either in the "seal" of circumcision (Romans 4:11), or in the oath "with which God interposed" (Hebrews 6:17) after the sacrifice of Isaac. The words εἰς Χειστόν, "with reference to Christ," are expunged from the text by most recent editors. If genuine, they would seem intended to emphasize that position of "Christ" (i.e. in effect his Church) as future copartner with Abraham, which has been already affirmed in the preceding verse. The Law, which was four hundred and thirty years after (ὁ μετὰ τετρακόσια καὶ τριάκοντα ἔτη [Receptus reads ἔτη before τετρακόσια, instead of here, with no difference to the sense] εγεονὼς νόμος); the Law, having come into existence four hundred and thirty years after. This number of years the apostle finds in Exodus 12:40, Exodus 12:41. In the Hebrew text of that passage this term of four hundred and thirty years defines the stay of the Israelites" in Egypt." But in the Septuagint, as well as in the Samaritan text, the term defines the sojourn of the Israelites ("themselves and their fathers" is, according to Tischendorf, added in the Alexandrian manuscript) "in the laud of Egypt and in the land of Canaan." With the view presented by this Septuagintal version agrees a definite statement of Josephus ('Ant.,' Exodus 2:15, Exodus 2:2), "They left Egypt … four hundred and thirty years after our forefather Abraham came into Canaan, but two hundred and fifteen years only after Jacob removed into Egypt." In two other passages, however ('Ant.,' 2.9, 1; 'Bell. Jud.,' 5.9, 4), Josephus speaks of the affliction in Egypt as lasting "four hundred years;" probably following in this computation the period mentioned in the Divine communication recorded in Genesis 15:13, and cited by St. Stephen (Acts 7:6) in his defence. It is unnecessary here to attempt to determine the chronological question, which is one not free from difficulty. Our readers are referred to some valuable observations of Canon Cook's, in his note on Exodus 12:40; who on apparently strong grounds considers that a longer period than two hundred and fifteen years must be allowed for the sojourn in Egypt. If the Hebrew text of Exodus 12:40 as we have it is correct, and if the Septuagintal version of it errs in including the sojourn of the patriarchs in Canoan in the there mentioned period of four hundred and thirty years, then the number of years which the apostle here specifies, counting apparently from Abraham's arrival in Canaan when he received the first of the promises cited above in the note on Exodus 12:16, is less than he would have been justified in stating by the interval between Abraham's arrival in Canaan and Jacob's going down into Egypt. But, however, even if the apostle's mind adverted to this particular point at all, which may or may not have been the case, it plainly would not have been worth his while to surprise and perplex his readers by specifying a number of years different from that which they found in the Greek Bible, which both he and they were accustomed to use, even though the greater number would have in a slight degree added to the force of his argument. Cannot disannul (οὐκ ἀκυροῖ); doth not disannul. The present tense is used, because the apostle is describing the present position. That it should make the promise of none effect (εἰς τὸ καταργῆσαι τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν). The "covenant'' is here to a certain degree distinguished from "the promise." The latter, being the fundamental and characteristic portion of the former, is brought prominently forward, for the purpose of illustrating the character of the Christian economy as being above all things one of grace and gratuitous bestowment. The feeling also, perhaps, underlies the words that with one of generous spirit—and who so large-hearted and munificent as God?—in proportion as a promise which he has given is large and spontaneous, and the expectation raised by it eager and joyous, in that proportion is it impossible for him to baulk the promisee of his hope. The "promise" was "To thee and to thy seed will I give this land;" the "covenant," that Jehovah would be their God, and that they should recognize him as such.
For if the inheritance be of the Law, it is no more of promise (εἰ γὰρ ἐκ νόμου ἡ κληρονομία [or, οὐκ ἔτι] ἐξ ἐπαγγελίας); for if from a Law the inheritance accrues, it accrues no longer from a promise. The two nouns "Law" and "promise" have no article, being regarded here in their several characteristic principles, which were not only diverse, but contrary. The Law says, "The man that doeth these things shall live by them;" and this while enforcing a great variety of minute positive principles by severe threats and penalties. The promise bestows of free grace without works. The promised bestowment is here styled "inheritance," because received by Abraham's seed as his heirs (see Galatians 3:29 and Galatians 4:1). In the Old Testament it is a favourite designation of the land of Canaan; as e.g. in Psalms 105:11. Here it relates to a spiritual possession. Οὐκέτι seems preferred by editors of the text, when used logically, as if it were, It no longer appears to be (so Romans 7:17; Romans 11:6); whereas οὐκ ἔτι might be referred to a change which took place at the time when the Law was given. But God gave it to Abraham by promise (τῷ δὲ Ἀβραὰμ δι ̓ ἐπαγγελίας κεχάρισται ὁ Θεός); but God hath freely given it to Abraham by promise. The verb χαρίζομαι emphatically marks a gilt as freely and lavishly bestowed (compare its use in Romans 8:32; 1 Corinthians 2:12). The perfect tense points to the now and evermore enduring effect of the promise. The position of ὁ Θεὸς is emphatic—God, no less than he! (comp. Romans 8:31). The march of this sentence, with which the apostle closes up this paragraph of the discussion, gives, as it stands in the Greek, the reader to feel the apostle's soul dilating with wonder cud delight as he gives expression to the two notions—the gracious freeness of the gift, and the Divine personality of the Giver. The mention here of Abraham alone, without "his seed," is perhaps due to the apostle's sense of the long priority of this guaranteed bestowment to the giving of the Law. In appreciating the tone of the passage, we must not lose sight of the venerableness of this personage, the primordial father, not only of the Hebrew race, but of all believers in Christ to the end of the world.
Wherefore then serveth the Law? (τί οὖν ὁ νόμος;); what then (or, why then) is the Law? The apostle is wont thus to introduce the statement of some objection or some question relative to the point in hand which requires consideration (cf. Romans 3:1; Romans 4:1). He wishes now to show that, while the Law was a Divine ordinance, it was yet not intended to supersede the previously ratified covenant, but rather to prepare for its being completely carried out. It was added because of transgressions (τῶν παραβάσεων χάριν προσετέθη); on account of transgressions it was superadded. As χάριν denotes that so-and-so is done in consideration of this or that; this latter may be either some antecedent fact furnishing ground for subsequent action, as in 1 John 3:12; Ephesians 3:1; Luke 7:47, or some prospective result, which the action signified in the verb is intended to forward, as Jude 1:16. Here it intimates that the Law was given from a regard to men's sinful actions, with an implied contrast with the covenant of Christ's gospel, which was concerned with men's justification and benediction. The province of the Law is to expose sins, rebuke them, pronounce God's curse upon them, coerce and restrain them by the discipline of a system of outward rites and ceremonies. The office of the Law, as dealing with sinners as continuing sinful, while unable to make them new creatures, is indicated by St. Paul in 1 Timothy 1:9, where, after saying, "The Law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and unruly, for the ungodly and sinners," he proceeds to add a catalogue of offenders chargeable with the grossest form of criminality; which furnishes a most apt illustration of the word παραβάσεις ("transgressions'') which he here uses, and which marks sins in their most wilful and most condemnable character. What was spiritually the outcome of the Law's action upon men's sinful nature, in making their "sin exceeding sinful," the apostle has vividly portrayed in the seventh chapter of the Romans. This last point, however, is probably not even glanced at here; and it is only by straining the sense of χάριν, that some commentators, notably Meyer, find the apostle to be here stating that the Law was added for the behoof of transgressions, as it were in their interest, to increase and intensify them, as in Romans 5:20, that the trespass might abound. This, however, is not naturally found in the present passage. All that the apostle here states is that the Law merely dealt with sins, having no function in relation to life and righteousness. The article before παραβάσεων indicates the whole class of objects referred to, as e.g. in τοῖς ἀνθρώποις (Hebrews 9:27). This" superadded" (προσετίθη) is not inconsistent with the οὐδ ἐπιδιατάσσεται, "nor addeth thereto," of Romans 5:15; inasmuch as it points to a Divine ordinance, which steed, so to speak, in a different plane from the covenant of grace, and in no way interfered with it. Till the seed should come (ἄχρις οὗ ἔλθῃ τὸ σπέρμα). The form of expression indicates the purpose of him who arranged it all, that the Law should last only so long, and was to come to an end when the seed came. To whom the promise was made (ᾧ ἐπήγγελται); to whom the promise hath been made. The perfect tense of the verb, as in the case of κεχάρισται, in Romans 5:18, points to the still continuing validity of the promise. The "seed" is "Christ;" the historical Christ, indeed, but still viewed collectively as summing up in himself all who should be united to him. And it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator (διαταγεὶς δι ̓ ἀγγέλων ἐν χειρὶ μεσίτου); being ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator. The verb "ordain" (διατάσσειν), being most commonly used for "command," "order," as Luke 8:55; lCo Luke 7:17, is introduced in preference to δοθείς (comp. Luke 7:20 and John 1:17; John 7:19), as making more prominent the notion of imperative action on the part of the Divine Lawgiver. The whole passage is tinctured with the feeling that the giving of the Law, as contrasted with the dispensation of the Messiah, was marked by distance, sternness, alienation. This is the meaning of the mention of "angels" as the medium of communication on the side of Heaven, and of "a mediator" as the selected medium of reception on the side of Israel (compare the contrast between the two dispensations in Hebrews 12:18-24). This representation of the Law as given through angels is unmistakably made again in the Epistle to the Hebrews, in the words, "The word spoken through angels" (Hebrews 2:2), where also it is placed in the same contrast with the gospel as spoken by the Lord Jesus, which here is plainly implied, if indeed it is not expressly alluded to, in the enigmatic words, "but God is one," in the next verse. This view of the Law as communicated through the medium of angels is distinctly re[erred to by St. Stephen as the accepted belief of the Jewish theologians before whom he spoke: "Ye who received the Law as the ordinances of angels" (Acts 7:53), where the phrase, διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων, forms a remarkable parallel to the words, διαταγεὶς δι ̓ ἀγγέλων, now before us. The same view is put forth by Josephus ('Ant.,' Luke 15:5, Luke 15:3), "We having learned the most excellent of our doctrines and the most holy part of our Law through angels from God." Such, then, was incontestably the current belief of the Jewish people, both Christian and non-Christian. The Hebrew theologians directed a great deal of attention upon the doctrine of angels, of which the "boundless genealogies" spoken of by St. Paul (1 Timothy 1:4; comp. Colossians 2:18) was certainly one diseased branch. We may without improbability suppose that their exegetical sagacity, not unaided by the Spirit of God promised by him to his people upon their restoration from Captivity, detected the particular fact here indicated in Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalms 68:17; Exodus 19:16, Exodus 19:19. The countless hosts of his "saints" who attended upon the Lord on that occasion were not surely mere spectators; and to their intervention acting out the volitions of God might be most reasonably ascribed all the physical sights and sounds which gave to the giving of the Law its sensible awfulness. "They raised the fire and smoke; they shook and rent the rock; they framed the sound of the trumpet; they effected the articulate voices which conveyed the words of the Law to the ears of the people, and therein proclaimed and published the Law; whereby it became ' the word spoken by angels'" (Owen, 'Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews,' Exodus 2:2). In the hand of a mediator (ἐν χειρὶ μεσίτου); by the hand of a mediator. Ἐν χειρί, in or by the hand, is unquestionably a Hebraism, being in the Septuagint the ordinary literal rendering of the Hebrew beyad; see e.g. Numbers 4:37, Numbers 4:45; which passages likewise show us whom the apostle means to designate as the mediator; in reference to which comp. also Deuteronomy 5:5, "I stood between (ἀνάμεσον) the Lord and you at that time [i.e. at the giving of the Law], to show you the word of the Lord." So Philo speaks of Hoses as acting like a μεσίτης καὶ διαλλάκτης, "mediator and reconciler." Schottgen ('Hor. Hebr.') gives numerous examples from the rabbinical books of this application of the term "mediator "to Moses. This conception of Moses as a mediator seems implied also in the words, "Mediator of a better covenant" and "Mediator of a new covenant," which we have in Hebrews 8:6 and Hebrews 12:24, with reference to Christ. Evidently the mention of a mediator in the present passage is intended to point to the relations between the Lord and Israel as being those of distance and estrangement. If it be objected that the same inference would be deducible from the description of Christ as "Mediator between God and men," in 1 Timothy 2:5, we have it to say, in answer, that Christ, being in his nature both God and man, not only mediates between God and men, having made atonement or reconciliation by his cross, but in his own being unites God and man, abolishing actually that state of mutual alienation which the mediation of Moses by figure implied but could not in reality do away. We, too, were enemies to God before we were reconciled by the death of his Son (Romans 5:10); but now, being reconciled, we are at one with God in Christ: Christ's life in our nature both guaranteeing and effectuating our continued state of reconciliation with the Father as well as our own spiritual and eternal life.
This verse, closing the short paragraph commencing the verse which precedes it, appears designed to mark the difference of the relations which subsisted between the Lord and Israel at the time of the giving of the Law, compared with those which subsist between God and Abraham's seed in the covenant of grace. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one (ὁ δὲ μεσίτης ἑνὸς οὐκ ἔστιν). The article with μεσίτης, literally, "the mediator," marks the noun as a class noun, giving it the sense, "a mediator as such." Compare the use of the article in τοῦ ἀποστόλου, in "the signs of an apostle" (2 Corinthians 12:12); in ὁ ἀγαθὸς ἄνθρωπος, "a good man" (Matthew 12:25); in ὁ ἐργάτης, "the labourer is worthy of his hire" (Luke 10:7). The clause means this: a mediator implies the existence of more than one party, of two parties at least, for him to mediate between; of two parties not at one, but standing on such terms towards each other as make his intervention necessary. So far as it characterized the giving of the Law viewed in contrast with the establishment of the covenant of grace, the mediation of Moses, as has been already observed, did not put an end to the estrangement between the Lord and Israel: the estrangement went on throughout Moses' life; throughout, the Israelites stand marked with the brand of "transgression." The genitive ἑνός, "of one," is the same as the genitive in μεσίτης Θεοῦ καὶ ἀνθρώπων, literally, "Mediator of God and men," in 1 Timothy 2:5 : it marks the party or parties towards whom the function of mediation is exercised; so that what the apostle here affirms is that there cannot be only one such party. But God is one (ὁ δὲ Θεὸς εἷς ἔστιν). When we consider the number of interpretations given of this clause in connection with the preceding, which have literally been computed by hundreds (the reader will find a spieilegium of some sixty or eighty of them in Meyer), we may infer with certainty that the sense which the apostle intended to convey is not an obvious one—not one which lies near the surface. So much appears, however, in the highest degree probable, that he refers either to some disadvantageous circumstance attaching to the Law or to some advantageous circumstance attaching to the covenant of promise, and is viewing the two in contrast the one with the other. On these grounds the present writer has long since acquiesced in the view propounded by Windischmann in his Commentary on this Epistle, and which is accepted by Bishop Ellicott, that the unity here predicated of God is the oneness subsisting between the Father and the Son. God is one in the Father and in his Son—Christ our Lord. The fact is now present to the apostle's mind, and is presently after stated by him (Galatians 4:4), that the Son has been "sent forth" by God to redeem us and make us sons, and has thus become the "Christ," that "Seed of Abraham" to which the promises had been made. Hereby the most perfect oneness is established between God and the heirs of the promise; for these are "clothed with Christ" (verse 27) the Son of God; and he being one with the Father, they in and through him are really and permanently "reconciled into God," as the apostle writes in Colossians 1:20. Compare our Lord's words in his intercessory prayer (John 17:21, John 17:23), "That they all may be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us. I in them, and thou in me; that they may be perfected into one." That this sense lies deep down in the apostle's words and would not have readily been presented by them to the minds of his readers, forms no valid objection to this interpretation; for the history of the exegesis of the passage proves that this must have been the case with the sense which the apostle really designed to indicate, whatever that was. On the other hand, it is a sense which perfectly suits the requirement of the context; for it illustrates the superiority of the covenant of the promise to the covenant of the Law in the strongest manner possible. The nut has a very hard shell, but it yields a delicious kernel.
Is the Law then against the promises of God? (ὁ οὖν νόμος κατὰ τῶν ἐπαγγελιῶν τοῦ Θεοῦ;). "Against" (κατά), as Galatians 5:23; Romans 8:31; Matthew 12:30. Since the apostle has already (Matthew 12:15-18) disposed of the notion that the Law may have superseded or essentially qualified the promise, this word "against" can hardly intend adverse action of that kind, but rather imports simply contrariety of spirit or purpose. This objection the apostle meets by stating that the spirit and purpose of the Law were not contrary to the promises, inasmuch as the Law did not offer to interfere with the work which the promises were to do, but was designed, to be auxiliary to their function by preparing the way for its discharge. God forbid (μὴ γένοιτο). The tone of abhorrence with which the apostle negatives the inference (see note on Galatians 2:17) is due, not so much to its mere unreasonableness, as to the almost blasphemous character which he feels to attach to the notion. To think that one unquestionable revelation of the faithful, unchangeable God can be contrary in spirit or purpose to another equally unquestionable revelation of his! For if there had been a Law given which could have given life (εἰ γὰρ ἐδόθη νόμος ὁ δυνάμενος ζωοποιῆσαι,); for if a Law had been given such as could make alive. The construction of the article in the phrase, νόμος ὁ δυνάμενος, is similar to that in ἔθνη τὰ μὴ ἔχοντα (Romans 2:14); μάρτυσι τοῖς προκεχειροτονημένοις (Acts 10:41). The noun is first put undetermined, a narrowing determination with the article being then added: "If [in the Law of Moses] had been given a Law such as," etc. By fastening attention upon the Law as unable "to make alive," the apostle marks its character as contrasted with the new covenant, the characteristic function of which is that of imparting a life-giving Spirit. The Law made men feel their sin, their spiritual incapacitation, "the body of death" which enthralled them (Romans 7:1-25.); but the grace which should instil into their souls the life of love which they lacked, it had not to bestow. So far only reaches the unfavourable estimate of the Law's function given here: it was not "able to make alive." Verily righteousness should have been by the Law (ὄντως ἂν ἐκ νόμου ἦν ἡ δικαιοσύνη); in very deed then from the Law would have accrued righteousness. "In very deed then." But as the case now stands, it is a delusion to think it can, as the unbelieving Jews do, and as some of you seem minded to do. Ὄντως, as Luke 23:1-56. Luke 23:47; 1 Corinthians 14:25. If the Law could have quickened men with spiritual life it would have brought them justification. This is what the apostle here affirms. But why so? That in the economy of grace there is no justification without spiritual quickening, nor spiritual life without justification, we are clearly apprised by many passages of St. Paul's own writings, notably by Romans 8:1-10. The explanation, however, is probably this: in the apostle's view, the gift of the indwelling Spirit, to sanctify us and enable us for living a spiritual life, is conditioned by a state of acceptableness with God; until we have been brought into a state of grace, we are not qualified to receive this the supreme proof of Divine love. It is "because we are sons that God sends the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Galatians 4:6). If, then, the Law can be supposed capable of imparting the Spirit of life, it must be supposed capable of antecedently imparting righteousness. The "inheritance" of Abraham's seed includes both, both accruing to them from faith. So far was the Law from having these gifts to bestrew, that on the one hand, Moses' ministering of the Law to the people was a ministration of condemnation (2 Corinthians 3:6-9), and on the other, it brought quickening, indeed, but not to the sinner's spirit, but to his sin (Romans 7:9). intensifying its malignity and working death (ibid., Romans 8:10-13). These views, so explicitly expressed by the apostle in the two nearly contemporaneous Epistles just cited, reveal to us what was in his mind when writing, the words before us, and may be properly adduced to explain them.
But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin (ἀλλὰ συνέκλεισεν ἡ γραφὴ τὰ πάντα ὑπὸ ἁμαρτίαν); on the contrary, the Scripture hath shut it all up under sin. On the sense which the phrase, "the Scripture," sometimes bears, denoting the sacred writings collectively and not one particular passage, see note on Galatians 3:8. Here, as in Galatians 3:8, we feel ourselves at liberty not to limit the apostle's reference to one passage, as that cited in Galatians 2:16 or verse 23 of this chapter, but to understand him as including in his scope the teaching of Holy Scripture in both these and other places; having probably in view some such general summary of the contents of God's Word as bearing upon the subject, as he has alleged in Romans 3:1-31. It is highly probable that some such summary, very possibly this identical one with variations, he was wont frequently to employ, as he certainly had constant occasion to do, in reasoning with his fellow-Jews and others, in synagogues and elsewhere. As in Romans 3:8, so here, the term "Scripture" is so applied as to invest Scripture with a sort of personal agency, which in stricter propriety would be predicated of its Divine Author. We have, in fact, presented to us the action of God himself in his ordering of that older economy, and not merely the statement of Scripture describing the condition of things under it. "Shut it all up under sin;" leaving no loop-hole of escape. The sense of the verb is illustrated by its use in the Septuagint (Joshua 6:1), "Jericho was (συγκεκλεισμένη) straitly shut up." God, in the appointments and revelations of the Law, found and pointedly left his people, so to speak, under the operation and overmastering of sin, providing for them therein, and as yet, no such outlet from either its condemnation or its power ("the law of sin," Romans) as he purposed in after times to open for them. The description stands in marked contrast with the blessed liberty predicated in the next chapter of the children of "Jerusalem which is above." This condition of things under the old economy is represented as being only a provisional ordering of the Divine Disposer, made with a view to a perfect manifestation of delivering goodness to come by-and-by. "Shut up … that," etc. We have a remarkable parallel to this twofold significance of "shut up," both as present and as prospective, in Romans 11:32," God hath shut up all men unto disobedience (συνέκλεισεν ὁ Θεὸς τοὺς πάντας εἰς ἀπείθειαν), that he might have mercy upon all;" where likewise the providential ordering of God is spoken of, and not the description of Scripture only. There we read τοὺς πάντας, here τὰ πάντα, with an evident propriety in the choice of gender; for there St. Paul is thinking of Jews and of Gentiles as severally coming under the operation of the Divine "shutting up;" here he is not thinking of varied personalities, but rather of the entire circumstances of men under the legal economy. That the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe (ἵνα ἡ ἐπαγγελία ἐκ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ δοθῇ τοῖς πιστεύουσι). The term "promise," as connected with the verb "might be given," denotes beyond doubt the thing promised, as in Romans 11:14, "the promise of the Spirit:" this is "the promise" meant here. Now, if we were to join the words, "by faith of Jesus Christ," with the noun "promise," we should have to understand the two together as meaning," the promise which was made to Abraham because of his faith in Jesus Christ;" and this would be attended with a twofold inconvenience:
(1) the term would have to be taken in two senses in the same sentence; it would first mean here, "the word of promise spoken to Abraham,'' and then, when immediately after taken with the verb "might be given," it would change its sense into that of "the thing promised;"
(2) this method of construing the sentence would import a new thought, one which did not, so far as we know—it may have done so, perhaps, but there is no proof of it—belong to St. Paul's views of the subject; namely, that "Jesus Christ"—not merely "Christ," but "Jesus Christ" the historical Son of David—was believed in by Abraham. It appears safer, therefore, to connect the words, "by faith of Jesus Christ," with the verb; thus: "that the promise might by faith, as a consequence of faith, of Jesus Christ be given to them that believe." The apostle redoubles the mention of "faith" as the qualification for receiving the gift. "Faith! Faith! with none of your wretched works of ceremonialism! Compare for this iteration of faith, Romans 11:2-7. He adds, "of Jesus Christ," to "by faith," to mark that the bestowment of the blessing was delayed till Christ should have actually come, to whose line amongst Abraham's posterity the promise had been made. The apostle intimates that the ulterior purpose which God had in view in then "shutting it all up under sin," the purpose which is described in this last sentence, was likewise signified by "Scripture," as well as the condition of comparative helplessness and condemnation, under which those subject to the Law were detained. The participle τοῖς πιστευουσι is either a class substantive (as Acts 2:44; 1 Corinthians 14:22), "to believers," or the present tense of the participle points to action contemporaneous with that expressed by the verb, "to them that should believe."
The feature which distinguishes this new paragraph (Galatians 3:23, Galatians 3:24) from the preceding (Galatians 3:21, Galatians 3:22) is the more distinct statement of the paedagogic function of the Law as preparatory to that economy of grace which was the ulterior purpose of the Lawgiver. In the meanwhile (the apostle here says) we were committed to the custody of the Law. But before faith came (πρὸ τοῦ δὲ ἐλθεῖν τὴν πίστιν). The "but" is an-tithetic to the closing clause of Galatians 3:22, from which is taken up afresh the notion of faith, there spoken of as of old destined to become at the proper time the qualifier for the receiving of the promise. "Faith" denotes, not objectively, "the faith," that is, the gospel, as Galatians 1:23, a sense in which it is seldom used, and which is repelled here by the whole context; but subjectively, the principle of belief in One who gives of mere grace. This, by a bold and surely jubilant figure of speech, is personified as "coming" for men's deliverance, while the "Law" is also personified as the stern custodian under whose charge till then men were detained. Compare the frequent references in the Psalms to "light," "truth," "righteousness," "word," etc., being" sent," "commanded," by the Lord, as in angels, despatched for the help of his saints (Psalms 43:3; Psalms 40:11; Psalms 57:3; Psalms 107:20, etc.). We were kept under the Law, shut up (ὑπὸ νόμον ἐφρουρούμεθα συγκεκλεισμένοι [συγκλειόμενοι, Revised Text; so, according to Scrivener, L. T. Tr.]); we were kept in ward under the Law. shut up. The "we" recites, not exactly Jewish Christians or Jews, except per accidens, but God's people. The verb φρουρεῖν, keep carefully guarded, is used with a prominent notion of protection in Philippians 4:7; 1 Peter 1:5; whilst in 2 Corinthians 11:32, as here, the more prominent idea is that of preventing egress. Comp. Romans 7:6, "The Law wherein we were holden (κατειχόμεθα)." So Wis. 17:16, of Egyptians, in the plague of miraculous darkness, as it were imprisoned, unable to move, Ἐφρουρεῖτο εἰς τὴν ἀσίδηρον εἱρκτὴν κατακλεισθείς, "Was kept ill ward, having been shut up into the prison which had no iron bars." The reading συγκλειόμενοι or συνκλειόμενοι, although highly witnessed to by uncial manuscripts, appears to be accounted for by the reading in B, συγκλεισμένοι (very probably a clerical blunder for συγκεκλεισμένοι), which may have given it vogue. The perfect participle seems alone suitable to the passage, q.d. shut up for good and all. The present participle would require to be understood of the repression of a constantly repeated endeavour to escape (or, what?). As the verb συνέκλεισεν occurs in the preceding verse, συγκεκλεισμένοι takes the shade of meaning, "shut up as I said." Unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed (εἰς τὴν μέλλουσαν πίστιν ἀποκαλυφθῆναι). "Unto;" with reference to, with an eye to, the coming economy of free grace, to which they were then to be transferred. The same preposition (εἰς) is used in the same manner in the next verse," unto Christ." In the words, τὴν μέλλουσαν πίστιν ἀποκαλυφθῆναι, we have the same form of sentence as in Romans 8:18, Πρὸς τὴν μέλλουσαν δόξαν ἀποκαλυφθῆναι, "For the glory which shall hereafter be revealed." In both cases, the emphatic position of μέλλουσαν appears to indicate, not merely that the manifestation was future, but that the future would be sure to bring it; the predetermining purpose of God made it certain. "Revealed:" the principle of faith as accepting a gift bestowed of free grace, though not unknown to the pious of former ages (Romans 3:21)—for how in any age could one con-scions of sin look for any gift at the hands of the Almighty except thus?—was destined, under the "gospel of the grace of God," to come forth into conspicuous prominence as the one supremely commanding element of religious sentiment.
Wherefore the Law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ (ὥστε ὁ νόμος παιδαγωγὸς ἡμῶν γέγονεν εἰς Χριστόν) wherefore the Law hath been the keeper of our childhood to keep us unto Christ. With St. Paul, ὥστε, so that, frequently is used to introduce a sentence which is not dependent in construction on the preceding words, but is one which makes a fresh departure as if with the adverbial conjunction "wherefore," or "so then." Thus Galatians 3:9; Galatians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 4:12; 2Co 5:16; 1 Thessalonians 4:18, in which last passage it is even followed by an imperative, Γέγονεν differs from ἦν or ἐγένετο by describing, past action as ending in a result which still continues. The verb γίγνεσθαι frequently denotes "prove one's self, … act as". The Law hath done with us (says the apostle) the work of a child's caretaker (paedagogus), with an eye to Christ, to whom we have now been banded over. (For the use of εἰς, see note on verse 23.) Paedagogus has no equivalent in the English language; "pedagogue," "schoolmaster," "tutor," "guardian," are all inadequate, covering each one an area of thought more or less quite different. "Tutor," as the masculine of "governess," comes perhaps nearest; but a tutor to a gentleman's children is generally an educated man, and often of like rank in life with those he is with; whereas a paedagogus was usually a slave—an element of thought probably very near to the apostle's consciousness in his present use of the term. In illustration of this and other points bearing upon this subject, the reader will be interested by a passage cited by Bishop Lightfoot out of Plato's 'Lysis'. Socrates is questioning a young friend. "' They let you have your own ruling of yourself: or do they not trust you with this, either?' 'Trust me with it, indeed!' he said. 'But as to this, who has the ruling of you?' 'This man here,' he said, 'a tutor.' 'Being a slave, eh?' 'But what of that?' said he; 'yes; only, a slave of our own.' 'An awfully strange thing this,' I said, 'that you, freeman that you are, should be under the ruling of a slave. But further, what does this tutor of yours, as your ruler, do with you?' 'He takes me,' said he, 'to a teacher's house, of course.' 'Do they rule you too, the teachers?' ' Certainly, of course.' 'A mighty number it seems of masters and rulers does your father think proper to set over you.'" Teaching, except possibly of the very first rudiments, was not the padagogus's business, but only the general care and superintendence of his charge—taking him to and back from his teachers' houses or the schools of physical training, looking after him in his play hours, and the like. In applying to the Law the figure of a paedagogus, the features which the apostle had in view were probably these: the childhood or non-age of those under its tutelage; their withdrawal from free parental intercourse; their degraded condition probably as being under servile management; the exercise over dram of unsympathizing hardness; coercive discipline; the rudimentary character of their instruction (this particular, however, is likewise of questionable application); the temporary and purely provisional nature of the condition under which they were placed; its termination in the full enjoyment of freedom and of participation in their father's inheritance. The clause, "unto Christ," can hardly mean "to bring us to Christ," tempting as this interpretation may seem, in view of the verbal constituent (ἄγω)" bring" in παιδαγωγός, and of the fact that it was one part of the duty of the child's keeper to take him to his school. For there are the following objections to taking it so:
(1) The child-keeper's relation to his charge did not end with his taking him to school, but continued on throughout his non-age;
(2) the function of Christ is not viewed here as instruction;
(3) if this construction had been in the apostle's view, he would have written πρὸς Χριστὸν or εἰς Χριστοῦ, as in the εἰς διδασκάλου ("to the teacher's house") of the passage above cited from Plato. We must, therefore, understand the preposition as in the preceding verse, "with a view to." The next clause is the explanation. That we might be justified by faith (ἵνα ἐκ πίστρεως δικαιωθῶμεν); in order that by faith we might get justified. This clause is the most important part of the sentence. Not from the Law was to come righteousness; the Law was no more than introductory or preparatory; righteousness (once more the apostle reminds the Galatians) was to come to us as a free gift through Christ, upon simply our faith, the Law having now nothing to do with us. Hence the emphatic position of the words ἐκ πίστεως. The apostle does not, in the present connection, make it his business to explain in what way the Law was preparatory, which he does in Romans 7:1-25.; his purpose at present is to insist upon its purely provisional character. What we have here is a description of the relation of the Law to God's people viewed collectively; but we can hardly fail to be reminded, that this experience of the collective people of God very commonly finds its counterpart in respect to the ethical bearing of the Law in the experience of each individual believer. Only, we have still to bear in mind that the apostle is thinking of the Law just now more in its ceremonial aspect than its ethical.
But after that faith is come (ἐλθούσης δὲ τῆς πίστεως); but now that Faith hath come; this white-robed, joy-bringing angel of deliverance! (see note on the words, in Galatians 3:23, "before faith came"). We are no longer under a schoolmaster (οὐκέτι ὐπὸ παιδαγωγόν ἐσμεν); we are no longer under a keeper of our childhood. When a child becomes of age, as determined by his father's arrangement, the paedagogus's function, of course, ceases; so also when we(God's collective people)became believers in Christ, we had reached the era appointed by our Father for our coming of age, and the Law lost all hold upon us. This triumphant conclusion is based upon the premiss that the Law was the paedagogus of God's people, and nothing more. This premiss is itself proved true to the apostle's conviction, by the very nature of the case.
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus (πάντες γὰρ υἱοὶ Θεοῦ ἐστὲ διὰ τῆς πίστεως ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ) for sons of God are ye all through faith in Christ Jesus. "For;" that is, what is just affirmed (Galatians 3:25) is true, because ye are "sons" and no longer "children." "Ye are;" in Galatians 3:25 it is "we are." The whole course of the argument, however, shows that the persons recited by each of the personal pronouns are in effect the same, namely, the people of God; otherwise this verse would not furnish proof, as by the "for" it professes to do, of the statement of Galatians 3:25. The change from "we" to "ye" has by some been explained as due to the writer's wish to preclude the supposition that the "we' in Galatians 3:25 applied to Jewish believers only. A more satisfactory explanation is that he wishes to give the statement in Galatians 3:22-25, which is general, a more trenchant force as applying to those whose spiritual difficulties he is now dealing with. In 1 Thessalonians 5:5, "Ye are all sons of light, and sons of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness,'' we have the converse transition. There likewise the persons recited are in effect the same; and the change of person in the pronoun, making the discourse, from exhortation addressed to others, pass into a form of cohortation applying to all Christians alike, including the writer himself, is dictated by the apostle's sympathetic kindness for especially his Thessalonian converts. "Ye are." The fact that faith is the sole and sufficient ground of qualification eliminates all those distinctions by which the Law has heretofore fenced off Gentiles, pronouncing them "separated as aliens," "strangers to the covenants," and "without God" (cf. Ephesians 2:12). In the sequel (1 Thessalonians 5:28) the apostle passes on from the thought of this particular outward distinction of Jew and Gentile to the thought of all other purely external distinctions. "In Christ Jesus." It is debated whether this clause should be connected with "faith," as if it were πίστεως τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, the article being omitted, as in Colossians 1:4; Ephesians 1:15, and often; or with the words, "ye are sons of God," with a comma following the word "faith." Both modes of construing find in the sentence at last the same contents of thought; for each of the two propositions thus severally formed contains by implication the other. It probably suits the connection best to take the apostle as at once affirming that it is in Christ Jesus that we are God's sons through faith, rather than as leaving this to be inferred from the fact of our being sons through faith in Christ. "In Christ" is, with St. Paul, a very favourite form of indicating the channel through which the great blessings of the gospel are realized (cf. Ephesians 1:3, Ephesians 1:6, Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 1:11; Ephesians 2:6, Ephesians 2:7, Ephesians 2:10, Ephesians 2:13, Ephesians 2:21, Ephesians 2:22; Ephesians 3:12, etc.). "Sons of God." It is quite clear that the term "sons" (υἱοὶ) denotes those who have come into the full enjoyment, so far as the present life is concerned, of the position Which their birth had entitled them to; and that it stands in contrast with their earlier position when children in years under a paedagogus. The noun υἱός, son, itself, however, while it is never used as synonymous with νήπιος to describe one as a child in years, yet, like τέκνον, child, does not ordinarily betoken more than simple relationship as the correlative with "father;" for which reason υἱός (as well as τέκνον) is used in such phrases as "children of disobedience," "of Israel,"" of light," "of the day," "of the devil," "of perdition." In Hebrews 12:6-8 υἱὸς is applied in the case of one who is as yet under the discipline of the rod; but even there υἱὸς of itself immediately designates his filial relation only. St. Paul never uses the word παῖς at all, though he has παιδία in 1 Corinthians 14:20 for children in years, in place of the word νήπιος which he ordinarily employs (Romans 2:20; 1 Corinthians 3:1; 1 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 4:14; Hebrews 5:13), and which we find presently after in vers. I and 3 of the next chapter. The particular modification of meaning in which the apostle here uses the term is justified by the consideration which he presently puts forward, that a son of even an opulent or high-born parent, while a mere child, possesses no more freedom than if he were the child of any other person; his heirship or distinction of birth is for so long more or less veiled; it is not until he passes out of his nonage that he appears in his proper character.
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ (ὅσοι γὰρ εἰς Χριστὸν ἐβαπτίσθητε); for all ye who were baptized into Christ. "For;" pointing back to the whole preceding verse, but especially to the words," in Christ Jesus." "All ye who were baptized;" more literally, "ye, as many as were," etc. The rendering in our Authorized Version, "as many of you as have been baptized," allows of, if it does not suggest, the surmise that the apostle was aware of there being those among the Christians he was writing to who had not been "baptized into Christ." But the context proves the fallacy of this surmise; for the baptism of a part of their body, whatever its consequences to those particular individuals, would have furnished no proof of the foregoing statement, that "all" of those whom he was addressing were "sons of God." The class marked out by the ὅσοι is clearly coextensive with the "ye all" of Galatians 3:26. The fact is that this ὅσοι marks out a distinct class, not taken out from amongst Christians, but from amongst mankind at large. As compared with οἵτινες, which the apostle might have written instead, it may be regarded as affirming with greater positiveness than οἵτινες would have done, that what is predicated in the subsequent clause is predicated of every individual belonging to the class defined in this. It may be paraphrased thus: As surely as ever any one of you was baptized into Christ, so surely did he become clothed with Christ. Precisely the same considerations apply to the clause in Romans 6:3, "All we who were baptized (ὅσοι, ἐβαπτίσθημεν) into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death." A similar paraphrase may be given in Romans 6:10 of this chapter: So surely as any are of the works of the Law, so surely are they under a curse; and in Romans 8:14, So surely as any are led by the Spirit of God, so surely are these sons of God. Below, in Galatians 6:16, "As many as shall walk by this rule," the ὅσοι does mark out a class from among the general body of Christians, who were not all acting thus. So also Philippians 3:15, "As many as be perfect." Were baptized into Christ (εἰς Χριστὸν ἐβαπτίσθητε). So Romans 6:3, "Baptized into Christ Jesus, baptized into his death." The question arises—What is the precise force of the preposition "into" as thus employed with relation to baptism? With the present passage we have to group the following: "Baptizing them into (εἰς) the Name of the Father. and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19); "Were all baptized into (εἰς) Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (1 Corinthians 10:2); "In (ἐν) one Spirit were we all baptized into (εἰς) one body" (1 Corinthians 12:13), which statement, we must observe, is preceded by the apologue of a body with many members ending with "so also is Christ" (Romans 6:13). With reference to these passages we may observe that, since in 1 Corinthians 12:13 ("We were baptized into one body") the preposition retains its strict sense of "into," and since "Christ" is perpetually set forth as for Christians the sphere of their very existence, in whom they are that which distinctively they are, it is reasonable to conclude that, when the apostle here and in Romans 6:3 uses the expression, "baptized into Christ," he uses the preposition in its strict sense; that is, meaning that Christians are in their baptism brought into that union with, in-being in, Christ which constitutes their life. Nor does 1 Corinthians 10:2, "were baptized into Moses", present any real objection to this view. For in comparing objects together, the apostle not unfrequently puts a very considerable strain upon a phrase when he wishes to bring the two several objects under one category, using it alike of that to which it is most strictly applicable, and of that to which it is not applicable strictly, but only in a very qualified sense. Compare, as a very noteworthy instance of this, his application of the words (κοινωνία κοινωνός), "communion," "having communion," in 1 Corinthians 10:16-20 (Revised Version); in which the expression, "having communion with devils (κοινωνοὺς τῶν δαιμονίων γίγνεσθαι," is, surely with considerable violence, applied to the case of persons eating things sacrificed to idols; but is applied thus by the apostle because he wishes to present a parallel to that real "communion of the blood, of the body, of Christ," which Christians are privileged to have in the Lord's Supper. Similarly, in 1 Corinthians 10:2-4 of the same chapter, for the purpose of exhibiting a parallelism, he strains the expressions," spiritual meat," "spiritual drink," justly and precisely applicable to the Lord's Supper, to apply them to the manna and water from the rock, the meat and drink of the Israelites in the wilderness, although the only justification of their being thus designated consists in their having been supernaturally supplied, and perhaps also that they had a typical meaning. We can thus, then, understand how, with reference to the other sacrament in 1 Corinthians 10:2 of the same chapter, he strains the expression, "baptized into," justly descriptive of Christian baptism, by applying it to that quasi-immersion of the Israelites in passing "through the midst of the Red Sea and under the cloud," which he construes into a "baptism" which made them over to a sort of union with, in-being in, Moses, thenceforward their lawgiver and leader. The import of the expression, "baptized into Moses," is to be estimated in the light thrown upon it by the more certain import of the expression, "baptized into Christ;" not this latter to be explained down for the purpose of making it correspond with the other. This view of the clause before us helps us to understand the words in Matthew 28:19, "Baptizing them into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;" in the comprehension of which we are further assisted by the very remarkable, pregnant use sometimes made in the Old Testament of the word "Name," when it is employed to designate that presence of Divine power and grace which is the security of God's people and the confusion of their enemies (see Proverbs 18:10; Psalms 20:1, Psalms 20:7; Psalms 75:1; Isaiah 30:27, etc.). For the baptism which brings men "into Christ" brings them into the Name of the triune God as manifested to us in the gospel. Such an interpretation of these words approves itself fully with reference to their use in the supremely solemn hour of spirit-fraught utterance recorded in Matthew 28:19; notwithstanding that in other passages, of plain historical narrative, such as Acts 8:16 and Acts 19:5, it may be more natural to take the preposition in the phrase, "baptize into the Name of Christ," in a lower and less determinate sense—either as "unto," "with reference to," or, which seems more probable, as pointing to that professed connection with Christ as his people ("Ye are Christ's," 1 Corinthians 3:23), into which the sacrament brings men. But this lower interpretation, if admitted in those passages, has no claim to dominate our minds when endeavouring to apprehend the full import of the passage now before us, and of Romans 6:3. In these the apostle is evidently penetrating into the inmost significance and operation of the rite; and therefore beyond question means to indicate its function, as verily blessed by God for the translation of its faithful recipients into vital union with Christ. For the just comprehension of the apostle's meaning, it is of the utmost consequence to note that he introduces this reference to baptism for the purpose of justifying his affirmation in verse 26, that in Christ Jesus those whom he is addressing were all sons of God through faith. This consideration makes it clear that he viewed their baptism as connected with faith. If there was any ,reality in their action in it at all, if they were not acting an unreal part, their coming to baptism was an outcome of faith on their part in Christ. By voluntarily offering themselves to be baptized into his Name, they were consciously obeying his own instructions: they were manifesting their desire and their resolve to attach themselves to his discipleship and service; to be thenceforth people of his, as by him redeemed, and as expecting at his hands spiritual life here and perfected salvation hereafter. Therefore it was thai they were in their baptism translated "into Christ;" their voluntary act of faith brought them under such operation of Divine grace as made the rite effectual for the transcendent change which the expression indicates; for it is abundantly apparent that a spiritual transition such as this cannot be wrought by a man's own volition or action, but only by the hand of God; as St. John testifies (John 1:13). Have put on Christ (Χριστὸν ἐνεδύσασθε); did put on Christ. In Romans 13:14 we find the imperative used, "Put ye on (ἐνδύσασθε) the Lord Jesus Christ." There the phrase has an ethical application, denoting the adoption of that whole system of habits which characterized the Lord Jesus, and presents in a more definite form that "putting on" of "the new man" which is insisted upon in Ephesians 4:24. This can hardly be its meaning here; rather it is to be regarded as a more determinate form of the notion of" being justified." The penitent convert, by that decisive action of his faith which by seeking "baptism into Christ" put forth his hand to lay hold of the righteousness which is by faith, became invested with this particular form of "righteousness," namely, that very acceptableness, in the sight of God, which shone in Christ himself. In that hour God "made him acceptable in the Beloved" (cf. Ephesians 1:6, ἐχαρίτωσεν ἡμᾶς ἐν τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ); endued this poor guilty creature with the loving-kindness with which he regarded his own Son. The middle voice of the Greek verb, though it denotes in Romans 13:14 action of the Christian's own, is not to be so far pressed as to exclude the notion of our having in this case been subjected to the action of another. Comp. Luke 24:49, "Until ye be clothed (ἐνδύσησθε) with power from on high;" 1 Corinthians 15:53, "This mortal must put on (ἐνδύσασθαι) immortality;" so 2 Corinthians 5:3. It is the exclusive prerogative of God to justify the sinner; and therefore it must have been by him that the believer became clothed with Christ, not by himself, though it was by his own voluntary act that he came under this operation of the Divine grace. It is, perhaps, impossible more strongly to express the intense character (so to speak) which belongs to the righteousness which comes to us through faith in Christ, than by the form in which it is here exhibited. The apostle, however, in 2 Corinthians 5:21, uses an expression which may be put by the side of it: "That we might become the righteousness of God in him." It is now clear how completely this verse makes good the affirmation in the preceding one. We have indeed been made sons of God in Christ Jesus if we have become clothed with Christ. For what other in this relation does the phrase, "sons of God," denote as applied to ourselves, than the intense love into the bosom of which God has received us? No higher degree of adoption to be sons is conceivable; though the complete manifestation of this adoption still remains in the future (Romans 8:19).
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female (οὐκ ἔνι Ἰουδαῖος οὐκ ἔνι ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ); there is no dew here nor Gentile (literally, Greek), there is no bond man here nor freeman, there is not here male and female. The word ἔνι, occurring also in i Corinthians Galatians 6:5 (according to the now accepted reading); James 1:17; Ec 37:2; and very noticeably in Colossians 3:11, is probably (see Winer's 'Gram. N. T.,'§ 14, 2, 'Anm.') an adverbialized form of the preposition ἐν, of the same description as the thus accented πάρα and ἔπι. The prepositional element implies a somewhat indefinite indication of a sphere in which the statement of the clause holds good. The Revised Version renders, "there can be," and Bishop Lightfoot, "there is no room for;" but Ecclus. 37:2 and 1 Corinthians 6:5 do not much favour this particular modification. In Colossians 3:11 we have a very similar passage; there, after describing Christians as "having put on (ἐνδυσάμενοι) the new man, which is being renewed unto knowledge after the image of him that created him," the apostle adds, "Where there is not Gentile [Greek, 'Greek'] and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ is all [literally, 'all things'] and in all." We may group with them also 1Co 12:12, 1 Corinthians 12:13, "So also is Christ; for in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews, whether Gentiles [literally, 'Greeks'], whether bondmen, whether freemen." In all three of these passages we see the reference both to "Jew and Gentile'' and to "bondman and freeman." The particular mention of these two forms of outward classification was suggested by the circumstances of the Christian Church generally at that time. Wherever the apostles went, they were sure to be confronted by questions and difficulties arising both from the one and from the other. In the kingdom of God were Jew and Gentile, were circumcised and uncircumcised, to stand on the same footing? Should believers as such be concerned to vary their treatment of one another or to modify their own condition from regard to these circumstances? Questionings of this description were being agitated everywhere, and most especially just now in the Galatian Churches. And, on the other point, the universal existence of slavery more or less throughout the civilized world would necessarily give occasion to a variety of questions relative to the position which bondmen should hold in the Christian community; how a bondman on becoming a Christian should stand, or what he should do, in respect to obedience to his owner or to seeking a change in his condition. St. Paul, in his Epistles, has briefly discussed some of these points, as in 1 Corinthians 7:20-24; Ephesians 6:5-9. So often had the apostle occasion to affirm the perfect identity of Christian privilege possessed by all believers in Christ, that the statement would naturally mould itself into a sort of formula. In Colossians he varies the form by inserting "barbarian, Scythian;" degrees of national civilization made no difference. In place of this, he here adds the particular, that diversity of sex made no difference. We cannot tell what especial reason he had for introducing these modifications in writing to the Colossians and the Galatians respectively. Possibly he had none beyond the pleasure which he felt in dilating on the large catholicity of the Divine grace. In the clause, οὐκ ἔνι ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ, "there is here no male and female," the neuter is used (remarks Alford) as being the only gender which will express both. The change of form, "male and female," from "no Jew nor Gentile," "no bondman nor freeman," was perhaps suggested by the passage in Genesis 1:27 (ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ), "male and female created he them," which is quoted in Matthew 19:4; Mark 10:6. If so, the clause may be regarded (as Bishop Lightfoot says) as forming a climax: "even the primeval distinction of male and female." But perhaps the change is simply made for the sake of variety; as in the way in which several of the classes are introduced in the Colossians. For ye are all one in Christ Jesus (πάντες γὰρ ὑμεῖς εἷς ἐστὲ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ); for all ye are one and the same man in Christ Jesus. The pronoun ὑμεῖς, ye, is inserted to recite emphatically the qualification already expressed; as if it were, "ye being what ye are, believers baptized into Christ." The apostle's object here is not, as in 1 Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 3:11-15, to exhort to the performance of certain mutual duties on the ground of the unity which in Christ is established among all believers, but to enforce the view that each individual's title to the inheritance is altogether irrespective of external distinctions, and is based entirely, in one case as well as in another, upon his being clothed with Christ. The word εἷς is "one and the same," as in τὸ ἓν φρονοῦντες, "of one mind" (Philippians 2:2); and in εἷς Θεός, εἷς μεσίτης, "One and the same God, one and the same Mediator" (1 Timothy 2:5). So Chrysostom: "That is, we have all one form and one mould, even Christ's. What," he adds, "can be more awful than these words? He that was a Greek, or Jew, or bondman yesterday, carries about with him the form, not of an angel or archangel, but of the Lord of all, yea, displays in his own person the Christ." The distribution of the universal quality to each individual, so far as the grammar of the sentence is concerned, is imperfectly expressed. But the grammatical inadequacy of the verbal exposition is not greater than in 1 Corinthians 6:5, "Decide (ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ) between his brethren," literally, "between his brother;" and in 1 Corinthians 6:19, 1 Corinthians 6:20 of the same chapter, σῶμα ὑμῶν, "your body;" not "thy body," nor "your bodies." The apostle has in view the subjective application only of the principle here stated; each was to feel that, having the qualification which he has explained, he himself is a son of God and full inheritor, without casting about for any further qualification, as, for example, from ceremonial Judaism. The principle plainly is pregnant with an objective application also; namely, as to the manner in which they were to estimate and treat each other and every baptized believer, notwithstanding any circumstances of extrinsic diversity whatever.
And if ye be Christ's (εἰ δὲ ὑμεῖς Χριστοῦ); and if ye are Christ's. The δὲ simply marks a fresh stage in the argument, as e.g. Romans 8:17, εἰ δὲ τέκνα καὶ κληρονόμοι. For the preceding verse is no digression, requiring us to render this δὲ "but," but simply an amplification of the notion of putting on Christ in Romans 8:27; and the present clause recites that previous conclusion, to serve for a premiss to a further conclusion. "Are Christ's;" comp. 1 Corinthians 3:23, "And ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." This genitive here, as also there, denotes the closest and most intimate approximation conceivable, "Christ's own;" covering, in fact, the notion of being clothed with Christ; and expresses what that "one and the same man" is, which according to verse 28 in Christ Jesus all had become. Comp. Titus 2:14, λαὸν περιούσιον, "a people of his very own." Then are ye Abraham's seed (ἄρα τοῦ Ἀβραὰμ σπέρμα ἐστέ); then seed of Abraham are ye. "Ye,' Gentiles though ye be. In Titus 2:7 the apostle has affirmed that they who are of faith are sons of Abraham; in verse 16, that the promises were made to Abraham and "his seed, which is Christ." We have seen that in that verse 16 "Christ" appears to mean that branch of Abraham's offspring which was, so to speak, to proceed from Christ and was to be called by his name. If, however, "Christ" be there taken to mean the individual Son of Abraham, Jesus, then those who believe in him and have been baptized into him are to be understood as here affirmed to be "Abraham's seed," because, being clothed with Christ. they share his position. The same result is arrived at either way. And heirs according to the promise.
Beginning of the polemic part of the Epistle.
The apostle has finished his task of self-vindication, and now proceeds in regular theological method to expound and defend the doctrine of justification by faith without the deeds of the Law. "O foolish Galatians! who bewitched you,… before whose eyes Jesus Christ was evidently set forth in you, crucified?'
I. THE APOSTLE'S SEVERE REPROOF. "O foolish Galatians! who bewitched you?" Reproof is allowable and necessary, especially when it is prompted by love to God and truth and by a tender interest in the welfare of men.
1. He points to the "witcheries" of the false teachers as the only way of accounting for the sudden and inexplicable change of sentiment in Galatia. There must have been some extraordinary power of delusion or of fascination at work to throw them so completely out of the line of Christian thought. Whether it was the witchery of logic or the witchery of sanctity, it was most effective in deluding the Galatians.
2. The Galatians were "foolish" in yielding to such ensnaring delusions. They were not answerable for the conduct of their deluders, but they showed an uncommon folly. The Celtic nature is quick, but unstable. The change was a senseless one.
II. THE INEXCUSABLENESS OF THEIR CONDUCT. "Before whose eyes Jesus Christ was evidently set forth in you, crucified." The apostle refers to his own clear exhibition of gospel truth in Galatia, and especially to the individualizing distinctness with which the Redeemer was set before his converts as the only Hope of salvation. It was not only an exhibition, like a placard exhibited before their eyes, but it had its answering impression "within them." How, then, with such a view of Christ's person and work, could they have opened their minds to such destructive errors?
III. THE TRUE THEME OF THE GOSPEL—CHRIST CRUCIFIED. Naturalistic writers give us a Christ exalted far above the average altitude of men, but a man nevertheless; rationalistic writers give us a Christ as a leader of thought or as an example of self-sacrifice and sympathy. "We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling-block, to the Greeks foolishness; but to them that are called,… Christ the Wisdom of God, and the Power of God." The death of Christ, as expressing the whole mystery of redemption, involved the whole matter in dispute. There could be no compatibility between Christ's cross and Jewish legalism. We can, therefore, well understand why the apostle resolved to know nothing in his preaching but Christ, and him crucified.
The apostle's first argument in this controversy.
I. APPLICATION OF THE TEST OF EXPERIENCE. "Received ye the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith?" He begins by a practical test, which can be easily settled by experience and history. He refers to the time of awakening grace and first love. They had "received the Spirit."
1. He concedes that they were Christians, though they were neither faithful, nor stable, nor sound. "The Holy Spirit is the characteristic possession of believers." "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." The reference may have been both to ordinary and extraordinary gifts of the Spirit.
2. He concedes that they were conscious of the possession of the Spirit. They had no occasion to ask him what he meant by their receiving the Spirit. Christian people ought to possess, not only a good hope through grace, but "a full assurance of hope."
II. THE RECEPTION OF THE SPIRIT POSSIBLE, NOT ON THE PRINCIPLE OF LAW, BUT OF GRACE. Though the Spirit was given under the Law, it was never given on a principle of Law, but it was under the gospel dispensation that it was given in Pentecostal power and abundance. No man ever yet received the Spirit, as the Author and Sustainer of the new life, by "the works of the Law," or by a course of obedience specially designed to work out salvation. Conspicuously, as to historic fact and inward experience, the Spirit was given to men in connection with the first promulgation of the "word of faith" at Pentecost. The Spirit was given "by the hearing of faith." "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." Yet the hearing that brings faith with it is only possible through the Spirit's power, for many hear who do not believe, and therefore receive not the Spirit. There is no inconsistency here. We need the Spirit to enable us to believe, but the hearing is instrumentally necessary to our fuller reception of the Spirit. The apostle here, however, seems primarily to refer to the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, of which Peter spoke when he said that, after his preaching the Word, "the Holy Ghost fell upon them as upon us at the beginning" (Acts 11:15).
III. THE DONATION OF THE SPIRIT IS NOT ON PRINCIPLE OF LAW, BUT OF GRACE. "He that ministereth to you the Spirit and worketh miracles in you, doeth he it by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith?' He first spoke of the reception, now he speaks of the donation of the Spirit: he first referred to a particular point of time, namely, their conversion; he now speaks of the principle of God's continued action. It is God who ministers the Spirit—not the apostle—whether to work miracles of power or miracles of grace. But he does it, not on the principle of legal obedience, but on the principle of grace working through the instrumentality of the preached gospel. He is "the God of grace," who sent his Son, "full of grace and truth," to pour grace into innumerable hearts.
IV. THE FOLLY OF ATTEMPTING TO BEGIN ON ONE PRINCIPLE AND TO END ON ANOTHER. "Are ye so foolish? having begun with the Spirit, are ye now being completed with the flesh?" This is folly, for it is to reverse the natural order of things. The opposites here are not Christianity and Judaism, but the essential and vital principle of each. If we begin our life with the Spirit, it must reach its maturity with the Spirit. The introduction of the flesh would be the annihilation of the Spirit. Judaism ministers to the sensuous element in our nature by making religion a thing of rites and ceremonies; but this is to go back upon all the progress we have made in life, light, and blessing.
V. THE USELESSNESS OF THEIR PAST SUFFERINGS, "Did ye suffer so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain."
1. It is a sign of sincerity to suffer for our opinions. There is no record in the Acts of a persecution in Galatia; but the Jewish element was strong enough there as elsewhere to resent by violence the contempt put upon their Law by the Gentiles being freed from it. There is a possible reference to these sufferings in the Epistle (Galatians 5:1).
2. You stultify all your past sufferings if you recede from the gospel. All these sufferings represent so much wasted endurance or misery.
3. The apostle's reluctance to think their sufferings were in vain. "If it be yet in vain." He hopes better things of his converts. He knows that God keepeth the feet of his saints, so that they cannot altogether lose the things they have wrought.
Second argument—the case of Abraham.
The natural answer to the previous question is "through the hearing of faith," and this as naturally suggests the case of "faithful Abraham." The Jews boasted of their relationship to Abraham, and therefore an example taken from his history would have special force.
I. THE JUSTIFICATION OF ABRAHAM WAS NOT THROUGH CIRCUMCISION, BUT BY FAITH. "Even as Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness." No exception could be made to these words, for they were the very words of Moses (Genesis 15:6). The apostle dwells longer on the old Testament, because the Judaists would naturally appeal to it.
1. Abraham was not accepted for his virtues or his piety, or his circumcision, but because "he believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness'' (see homily on Galatians 2:16). His faith was accepted as righteousness, not as an act, for it had no merit in itself, but as a fact, for it was not by works, but by faith, he was accepted. His faith was the mere instrument of his justification, not the ground of it; for Scripture always represents it as being "through" faith or "of" faith, never on account of it.
2. The transaction here referred to occurred hundreds of years before the Law was given on Sisal, and even some time before circumcision was appointed as a "seal of righteousness." If he, therefore, could be justified without circumcision, and prior to it, how then could the Judaists insist on its necessity? Abraham was not circumcised in order to be justified, but circumcised because he was justified.
3. The doctrine of the apostle was not, therefore, in any sense a novelty, as the Judaists might think. It was at least as old as Abraham.
II. THE TRUE CONCEPTION OF ABRAHAMIC SONSHIP. "Know ye therefore that they who are of faith, the same are sons of Abraham."
1. It is not Abraham's blood, but Abraham's faith, which establishes the connection between the patriarch and his descendants. The Jews might say, "We have Abraham to our father;" and they might ask in surprise, "What profit, then, is there in circumcision?" They would imitate his circumcision rather than his faith. But the apostle says emphatically that the true sons are "they of faith," whose fundamental principle is faith.
2. It is Christ who makes the nexus between Abraham and us. We believe in Christ, who is Abraham's seed; therefore we are sons of Abraham.
3. There is but one Church in the two dispensations. Some modern sects hold that the Church is a New Testament organization, and that Old Testament saints have no part in it. How can this be, if we believers "are blessed with"—not apart from—"faithful Abraham" (Galatians 3:9)? The apostle shows how Abraham has the heirship, the sonship, the kingdom, the glory, on the ground of the promise. He did not, therefore, receive the promise only for his children. Take the promise of the Spirit from Abraham; we take it from ourselves. Is the father of the family to be excluded, and only the children to gain admission to the kingdom?
III. THE PROOF FROM SCRIPTURE. "Moreover, the Scripture, foreseeing that God justifies the heathen through faith, announced the good news beforehand to Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed."
1. The exact import of the promise.
(1) The blessing is justification, which is opposed to the curse of which he presently speaks. But that includes a title to eternal life as well as pardon.
(2) The unity of Abraham and his spiritual descendants. He is the root and the representative of his seed. The unity is not that established by circumcision, but something far deeper.
2. God had purposes of mercy toward the heathen. These purposes included their justification on the same grounds as those which secured the acceptance of the Jews. The Jewish dispensation was particularistic, and was so far temporary and preparatory to a dispensation universalistic in its character. In Christ there was to be henceforth "neither Jew nor Gentile."
3. The way of salvation is the same in both dispensations. Old Testament saints were saved exactly like New Testament saints, by faith in "the Lamb slain frorn the foundation of the world." The Levitical system was in itself an evangelical representation of the true method of salvation.
4. We see here the value of Scripture for proof, for confirmation, for comfort, through all ages.
IV. COMMUNITY WELL AS UNITY IS THE BLESSING. "So then they which be of faith are blessed together with the faithful Abraham."
1. The blessing. It is the manifestation of Divine favour. The blessing and justification are regarded in the context as correlative terms.
2. The community between Abraham and his seed.
(1) He is "faithful Abraham," because of the simplicity, strength, and activity of his faith. He manifested all these characteristics of faith in
(a) his self-expatriation;
(b) his readiness to sacrifice Isaac;
(c) his warlike courage;
(d) his self-abnegation in the case of Lot.
(2) He is the "father of the faithful." There are but two properly representative men, the first and the second Adam; but Abraham holds a relation of his own, though not of a federal character, towards all who are his seed spiritually. He and they are blessed together.
3. The ground of this community. It is the promise of God, "In thee shall the nations of the earth be blessed," realized in course of time in the common faith of all who, whether Jew or Gentile, trust in one Redeemer, and find in him their true inheritance as joint-heirs with him.
Third argument—the curse of the Law.
"For as many as are of the works of the Law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the Law to do them." The apostle is carried naturally by antithesis of thought from the blessing of faith to the curse of the Law.
I. THE CURSE. This is "the curse of the Law" of Galatians 3:13, from which the Law itself cannot deliver men, for its function is to condemn.
1. It is not the mere civil punishment inflicted on the Israelites for the transgression of the ceremonial or judicial Law. The context shows that the curse is a far deeper thing, for the contrast is between wrath and blessing, condemnation and justification. Besides, the passage refers to Gentiles who could not be affected by the dispensational peculiarities of Judaism.
2. The curse is the Divine sentence upon transgressors involving doom and shame, the loss of God, and separation from him (Isaiah 59:2). The curse includes the penal sanction of the moral Law—a Law written in the hearts of Gentiles as it was delivered to Jews on tables of stone; so that Gentiles and Jews were alike under curse. It is a mistake, therefore, to regard the curse as the mere natural consequence of transgression, as disease is the consequence of debauchery; it is a penal evil.
II. THE RANGE OF THE CURSE. It extends to "as many as are of the works of the Law." A distinction is here necessary between being of the works of the Law and being under the Law. The Old Testament saints were under the Law, but they were not under curse, because, like Abraham, they "saw the day of Christ afar off." They "believed God, and it was counted to them for righteousness." They apprehended God's mercy and grace under the sacrificial forms of the Jewish economy. But the curse must necessarily descend upon "all who are of the works of the Law," because they have broken it and are still breaking it day by day.
III. HOW THE CURSE COMES INTO OPERATION. It is by a Divine sentence which pronounces the curse upon all transgressors of the Law. The curse here quoted is the last of the twelve curses pronounced by the Levites on Mount Ebal (Deuteronomy 27:26). The reference points to ethical, not ceremonial, requirements.
1. The Law demands practical obedience. It is not "hearers" of the Law, but "doers," who are in question.
2. It demands a personal obedience. "Every one." There is no room for a proxy or a mediator.
3. It demands a perfect obedience; for it covers "all the things written" in the Law.
4. It must be a perpetual obedience. "Cursed is every one that continueth not." The least failure involves the transgression of the whole Law (James 2:10).
5. The effect of transgression is curse. All the evil that is involved in that terrible word. "Death and hell are the end of every sin, but not of every sinner."
6. The Law still exists to curse transgressors. It is not abrogated, though Judaism is no more.
Galatians 3:11, Galatians 3:12
Fourth argument—the inconsistency of Law and faith.
"But that no man is justified in the Law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. But the Law is not of faith: but, The man that hath done these things shall live in them."
I. JUSTIFICATION IS OUT OF THE SPHERE OF LAW.
1. Not because a perfect obedience would not bring justification, for the fundamental principle of the Law is, "The man that hath done these things shall live in them" (Leviticus 18:5).
2. But because no one is able to obey the Law perfectly. Thus salvation becomes impossible on the principle of Law.
II. SCRIPTURE ASSERTS THE CONNECTION OF JUSTIFICATION WITH FAITH, "The just shall live by faith." The apostle shows the Judaists how they misapprehended the doctrine of the old Testament; for, several hundred years before Christ, the Prophet Habakkuk connects life eternal with faith. "The Law is not of faith;" it does not find its starting-point in faith; doing, not believing, is the demand of the Law; and it is in no sense or manner connected with faith.
Galatians 3:13, Galatians 3:14
Fifth argument—our salvation is by Christ made curse for us.
Two thoughts are here brought into contrast—the Law condemned us; Christ redeemed us: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us."
I. THE NATURE OF THE REDEMPTION. He "redeemed us."
1. This language does not countenance the theory that there was nothing in Christ's work but a mere deliverance from the power of sin. That is certainly involved in his death; for he came to "redeem us from this present evil world" (Galatians 1:4), and "to redeem us from all iniquity" (Titus 2:14).
2. Neither does it countenance the idea that Christ redeemed us by entering into union with man and living a sinless human life, which is reproduced in us by means of fellowship with him. Neither of these theories makes any provision for the rectification of man's relation with God, which is only effected through Christ being made a curse for us.
II. HOW CHRIST ACHIEVED THE REDEMPTION. He "became a curse for us." This is an unfathomable thought. Yet let us try to interpret it in the light of Scripture. We are not redeemed by Christ's Divine doctrine, nor by his marvellous holiness of character, but by his entering into our very position before God, becoming" a curse for us." The Lord visited upon him what the Law awarded to us, and by that substitution our redemption was secured. We are not to suppose that the Son of God was less the object of Divine love at the very time that he was, in an official aspect as his righteous Servant, an object of Divine wrath. His Father always loved him. The assertion is made, first, that the curse of the Law rests upon transgressors; then, that we are liberated from that curse; then, that this result was achieved by Christ becoming a curse for us. The passage shows what Christ was in God's account, not what he was in the eyes of men who despised him.
III. HOW HIS DEATH TOOK UPON IT THIS CHARACTER OF CURSE. "For it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree" (Deuteronomy 21:22, Deuteronomy 21:23). The allusion hero is not specially to Christ, but to a command that those executed by Jewish law should not remain hanging on the tree all night. It does not refer to death by crucifixion, which was not a Jewish punishment, but to the exposure of the body after death, on crosses or stakes. But how was such a person accursed? Not because he was hanged upon a tree, but he was hanged upon a tree because he was accursed. The apostle does not mean to attach the idea of shame to the mode of Christ's death; for he was not made a curse by his mere hanging on a tree, but he hung there because he was made a curse for us.
IV. THE ULTIMATE DESIGN OF THE REDEMPTION. "That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles in Christ." That is, the curse-bearing prepared the way' for the blessing, which was henceforth to stream forth upon the whole world.
1. The blessing was justification of life, not mere temporal blessings, which were restricted to the Jews.
2. It was to reach the Gentiles "in Christ," who was made the curse for "us"—both "Jews and Gentiles"—not through the Law, which demands a perfect obedience.
3. It was designed for Gentiles as welt as Jesus. The stream was destined to flow through Jews to the Gentiles, freed from all the limitations of the old dispensation.
V. THE RESULT OF THE BLESSING. "That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." There is here an obvious return to the question of the second verse, and a definite answer is now given to that question. It was not through the Law, but through faith, we realize the promise of the Spirit. This was the special subject of promise (Joel 2:28; Acts 1:4, Acts 1:2; Ephesians 1:13). Our Lord has placed us in the dispensation of the Spirit, and has opened all blessings to men out of his cross and his tomb.
A new line of argument—the relation between the covenant and the Law.
Up to this point the apostle has touched upon no point that we have not seen in the Epistle to the Romans. Now he breaks new ground. "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."
I. IT IS ALLOWABLE TO USE HUMAN ANALOGIES IN ENFORCEMENT OF DIVINE TRUTH. The phrase, "after the manner of men," has various significations in the apostle's writings, but he evidently means here that the human analogy is perfectly appropriate, and that that which is true of a mere human arrangement is a fortiori of an arrangement made by God.
II. THE CONDITIONS OF COVENANT-MAKING IN HUMAN LIFE,
1. A covenant is an arrangement between two parties for mutual benefit, with an implied character of permanence. It is designed to perpetuate a relation of some sort.
2. The covenant stands in the integrity of all its provisions without either party having the power to annul it or to add fresh clauses, whether consistent or inconsistent with its provisions.
III. IMPLICATION THAT WHAT IS TRUE OF A HUMAN COVENANT IS ESSENTIALLY INVOLVED IN THE IDEA OF A DIVINE COVENANT. It is irreversible and irrevocable, since it is a covenant established by oath. God swears and he will not repent. The Judaistic theory, however, under the form of a supplement, would really effect the entire abrogation of the covenant.
The contents of the covenant and the parties to it.
"Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made."
I. THE CONTENTS OF THE COVENANT. "The promises." They are elsewhere spoken of as "the promise." It was repeated several times. This promise carries the whole of salvation within it. It is elsewhere referred to as "the oath and the promise"—"the two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie"—for God confirmed the promise by an oath, and the promise is linked with the Melchisedec priesthood of Christ, and thus involves all that is involved in priesthood, that is, atonement and intercession. It is the promise that bears up the burden of the world's hope, for it is on the ground of it we have "fled for refuge to the hope set before us" (Hebrews 6:18, Hebrews 6:19).
II. THE PARTIES TO THE COVENANT. These are—God on the one side; Abraham and his seed on the other. Not Abraham alone, but Abraham and his seed. "And he saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." The seed was not the Jewish race, nor strictly the spiritual posterity of Abraham, but Christ himself, in whom the Jewish race found its embodiment and to whom the spiritual posterity was organically united. There is a distinction between Christ personal and Christ mystical, regarded as the second Adam, as the Head of the body. Thus we understand how the whole body of believers is expressly called "Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:12). They are "all one in Christ," and "if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed' (Gal 5:1-26 :28, 29).
III. A NECESSARY CONCLUSION. If the seed is Christ, then the promise was not yet fulfilled, but awaiting fulfilment, when the Law was given. It could not, therefore, be disannulled by the Law, nor could the Law add fresh clauses to it.
Galatians 3:17, Galatians 3:18
The irreversibleness of the covenant by the Law.
"This, however, I say, that the covenant that has been confirmed before in reference to Christ, the Law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, does not disannul, that it should do away with the promise."
I. THE COVENANT ON ITS OWN INDEPENDENT FOUNDATION.
1. It stands irrevocable and indestructible because it has been confirmed by God, that is, by an oath; for, "Because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee" (Hebrews 6:13, Hebrews 6:14). This oath is to us the sure ground of hope.
2. It has exclusive relation to Christ regarded as the Head of the Church. He sealed this covenant with his blood, and thus the "cup of blessing" in the Lord's Supper has become "the new covenant in his blood." All covenant blessings reach us by Christ through his Spirit.
3. It stood for ages alone. The Law came four hundred and thirty years after.
II. THE INABILITY OF THE LAW TO AFFECT THE COVENANT.
1. The Law and the covenant proceed on two entirely different lines, and cannot therefore traverse each other's course.
2. The lateness of the Law, as an historic institute, leaves the covenant as it found it in the ages of its undisputed validity. There[ore the Law cannot disannul the covenant so as to throw invalidity into the promise.
III. THE INHERITANCE NOT POSSIBLE BY THE LAW, BUT BY THE PROMISE. "For if the inheritance be of the Law, it is no more of promise; but God has given it to Abraham by promise."
1. The inheritance covers more than the land of Canaan; it involves "the heirship of the world" (Romans 4:13); but it symbolizes the blessings of the Messiah's kingdom, and especially of that "better country" which was an object of wistful expectation to Abraham himself.
2. If the Law abrogates the covenant, the inheritance would in that case come of Law; but it is positively asserted that "God has given it "—the perfect tense marking the duration of the blessing—"to Abraham by promise."
Galatians 3:19, Galatians 3:20
The use and nature of the Law.
"What then is the Law?" The apostle's reasoning seemed to make the Law a quite superfluous thing. In the eyes of the Judaists it was God's most glorious institute. It was necessary, therefore, to show its nature, office, and characteristics, and its relation to the covenant of promise. It was really inferior to the dispensation of grace on four grounds, which themselves explain its nature and use.
I. THE LAW DISCOVERS SIN. "It was superadded because of transgressions."
1. It was not to check sin.
2. Nor to create sin.
3. But to discover it.
"By the Law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). This discovery would necessarily multiply transgressions (Romans 5:20), just as the introduction of light into a darkened room makes manifest the things that were before unseen. "I had not known sin but by the Law" (Romans 7:7). Many sins were not seen to be sins at all till the Law threw its intense light upon them. Thus the great service of the Law was to awaken conviction of sin in the heart and to make men feel their need of a Saviour. The ceremonial and the moral Law had equally this effect. The system of sacrifice had no meaning apart from the fact of sin. What a mistake, then, was that of the Judaists who imagined that the Law could give them a title to eternal life in virtue of their obedience to its commands
III. THE LAW WAS A TEMPORARY AND INTERMEDIATE DISPENSATION. "It was superadded … till the seed shall have come to whom the promise has been made." This refers to the coming of Christ who is "the Seed." The apostle puts himself back to the time of giving the Law, and looks forward from that starting-point to the future incarnation. The Law was thus a mighty parenthesis coming in between Abraham's promise and the coming of the seed, and was specially preparative and disciplinary in relation to that future event. It was destined then to pass away as a dispensation, but the moral Law, which it held in its bosom, was to abide in its full integrity. That Law still exists in Christianity, with its old power of manifesting sin and carrying conviction to sinners so as to shut them up to Christ.
III. THE LAW DID NOT COME DIRECT FROM GOD TO MAN, AS THE PROMISE CAME TO ABRAHAM, BUT THROUGH ANGELS BY A MEDIATOR, "Being ordained through angels in the hand of a mediator?' This is another point of inferiority. God gave the promise to Abraham immediately, not mediately by angels or through any intervention like that of Moses; unlike the Law, which was superadded through this double intervention.
1. The share of angels in the giving of the Law.
(1) Evidence of Scripture on the subject. Stephen says in his speech that the Israelites received the Law "at the ordination of angels," or "according to the arrangements of angels (Acts 7:53). The Law is elsewhere described as "the word spoken by angels" (Hebrews 2:2). Yet in the history of the giving of the Law there is no reference to angels, not even to their presence. In two passages their presence, but not their ministration, is referred to (Deuteronomy 32:2; Psalms 68:17).
(2) As the Law is said to have been ordained by means of angels and" the word spoken by angels," it is probable that the angels made it audible to the people or were connected with the terrible phenomena which accompanied the giving of the Law. The angels came between God and the people (Psalms 68:17).
(3) The presence of angels may have led in time to a perverted doctrine of angel-worship, against which the apostle warns the Colossians (Colossians 2:18).
2. The share of Moses in the giving of the Law. It was "ordained … in the hand of a mediator," who was Moses. He describes his own mediation: "I stood between you and the Lord at that time" (Deuteronomy 5:5, Deuteronomy 5:27). It was Moses who bore the tables of stone from God to the people. We are not to suppose that the reference is designed to mark the inferiority of the Law to the covenant of promise, which, too, had its Mediator, Jesus Christ the Lord. He is not contrasting the Law and the gospel, but the Law and the promise of Abraham; and he asserts that, while in the one case the angels and Moses had to do with its conveyance, God in the other case gave the promise without the intervention of either man or angel.
IV. THE LAW WAS DEPENDENT UPON CONDITIONS, THE PROMISE WAS ABSOLUTE. "Now, a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one." The very idea of mediation implies two parties, who are to be brought into some relation with each other through the intervention of a third person. In the case of the Law, there were two parties—God and the Jewish people. In the case of the promise, "God is one;" he is mediatorless—no one stands between him and Abraham, as Moses stood between God and the Israelites in the giving of the Law. There is a numerical contrast between "one" and "of one."
The Law designed to be subservient to the promise.
Though the Law is inferior to the promise in the four points already suggested, it is not antagonistic to it.
I. THE LAW IS NOT ANTAGONISTIC TO THE PROMISE. "Is the Law against the promises of God? God forbid."
1. The Law and the promise are equally of Divine origin—two distinct parts of the Divine plan, each part with its own distinct purpose to be carried out inside the Divine plan. The distinction between them is not that the one is good and the other evil; for" the Law is good if a man use it lawfully," while the promise is self-evidently and essentially so.
2. There would be antagonism if life came by the Law. "For if there had been a Law given that could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the Law." In that case, the Law and the promise would have come into competition as two diverse methods of salvation. In the one case, salvation would have come "of debt;" in the other case, it actually comes "of grace." If life came by the Law, there would, in fact, be no room for free gift at all.
3. The Law was absolutely incapable of giving life. If it could have done so, it would have been chosen as the method or' salvation, because, in that case, man had only to use his faculties to accomplish it, and the agony of the cross would never have been necessary. But the thing was impossible; salvation is a Divine work, and, if it comes at all, it must come from the quickening power of the Spirit.
4. If life could have come by the Law, its result, which is righteousness, would have come in the same way. But the apostle has closed up the way of righteousness through the Law by many strong texts.
II. THE TRUE EFFECT AND DESIGN OF THE LAW. "But the Scripture shut up all under sin, that the promise by faith in Christ might be given to them that believe."
1. The Law shuts up men under sin. The Scripture, rather than the Law, is here represented as doing it. It pronounces all to be guilty before God, but solely in virtue of the condemnation pronounced by the Law. The phrase here employed is very expressive. Men are, as it were, closed in, or shut up, on every side, with only one way of escape—with no way left open but that of faith.
2. There is a gracious purpose in this legal incarceration. "That the promise by faith in Christ might be given to them that believe."
(1) The blessing—" the promise," with all it involves.
(2) The channel of blessing'' faith." That is a precious conduit-pipe between the soul and the Saviour.
(3) The source of blessing—"Jesus Christ."
(4) The recipients—'' them that believe." How evidently all blessing reaches us, not by the Law, but by grace!
III. THE JEWS IN WARD UNDER THE OLD DISPENSATION. "But before faith came, we were kept under the Law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed."
1. The old dispensation described as the age "before the faith."
(1) This does not mean that there was no faith in a Redeemer in pre-Christian ages. To say otherwise is to say that there was no salvation in those ages. The apostle shows elsewhere that Abraham was saved as Christians are now saved (Romans 4:1-25.).
(2) Pious Israelites lived "before the faith came," because "the faith in him as really existent, or as Jesus, came with himself into the world."
2. The wardship of the Law in the old dispensation. The apostle identifies himself with the whole body of believers under the old economy, and represents them as under the strict surveillance of a rigorous janitor, who held them firmly under the discipline of the Law, with the design, however, that the very severity of their bondage might lead them to look believingly for escape to the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. The design of this wardship. "Shut up under the Law unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed." There was thus a gracious purpose in the very Law which was thus seen not to be "against the promises of God." The Law still brings conviction of sin and shuts men up to the faith of Christ. It is not to be supposed "that the faith had not been revealed" from the earliest ages of the world—for Christ was the promised Seed to Adam—but there was a veil upon men's minds till it was rent in the death of Christ. The faith revealed in due time was the faith of Christ incarnate.
IV. THE LAW OUR SCHOOLMASTER FOR CHRIST. "Wherefore the Law has become our tutor for Christ, that we might be justified by faith." Thus we see how "Christ becomes the end of the Law for righteousness."
1. The symbolic ritual of the Law pointed expressly to Christ. "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us." The sacrifices had no meaning apart from their typical relationship to Christ. The Epistle to the Hebrews is the best commentary on the Book of Leviticus. The Law with its sacrifices was always leading the Israelites to the" Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."
2. The moral Law was always leading to Christ; for it revealed sin, which deserved God's mighty condemnation.
3. The spiritual insufficiency of the Law was its constant preparation of the soul for the faith of Christ.
The blessing of adoption.
The apostle has already traced justification to faith, the inheritance to faith, life to faith; now he traces adoption to faith. Believers are not children of Abraham merely, but sons of God. It is clear, then, that they are no longer children "in need of a schoolmaster." "For ye are all"—both Jews and Gentiles—"sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus."
I. THE FOUNDATION OF SONSHIP.
1. It originates in the distinguishing grace of God. We "are predestinated to the adoption of children" (Ephesians 1:4-6).
2. It is based on the incarnation of the eternal Son, who became the Son of man that his people might become the sons of God. The Father loves them in his Son, and looks upon them with the complacency with which he regards his Son.
3. It is based on the mediatorial work of Christ; for, as it is in Christ "we have redemption through his blood," so in him we :have obtained the inheritance." Besides, God has sent forth his Son "to redeem them that were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Galatians 4:4, Galatians 4:5).
II. THE INSTRUMENT OF ADOPTION—FAITH. We become "sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (John 1:12). It is clear, then, that we do not become sons of God by nature.
1. We are "by nature children of wrath."
2. We only become sons on believing.
III. THE ADOPTION IS COMMON TO ALL BELIEVERS, WHETHER JEW OR GENTILE. It is not enjoyed in a varying degree by believers, as some seem to think, as if God regarded them with varying degrees of affection. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God." The adoption carries with it Divine favour, discipline, training, tenderness, conformity to the image of God's Son.
IV. IT IS A PRIVILEGE CONCERNING WHICH BELIEVERS ARE NOT LEFT IN DOUBT; for we receive the witness of the Spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16).
The import and obligations of baptism.
"For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ."
I. THE IMPORT OF BAPTISM INTO CHRIST.
1. It declares our union with Christ. We are baptized into his death, so far as we partake of its benefits, and are like him separated from the world and sin. We are by baptism separated from sin and devoted to Christ.
2. The text does not imply that all baptized persons have been baptized into Christ. Calvin well remarks that the apostle treats of the sacraments from two points of view. When he is arguing with hypocrites, he declares the emptiness of the outward symbols and the folly of confiding in them. But in dealing with the case of believers, while he attributes no false splendour to the sacraments, he refers emphatically to the inward fact signified by the outward ceremony. There is no warrant in this passage for the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, because the very persons here referred to were regenerated before they were baptized. Baptism followed upon their profession of faith in Christ.
II. THE OBLIGATIONS OF BAPTISM. They did "put on Christ." Baptized into his death and buried with him in baptism, they rise with him into newness of life. They put on Christ like a cloak. The beauty of holiness is to be upon them, because they are "predestinated to the very image of Christ." The text is very expressive.
1. Christ is put on for a complete covering. Not merely as a girdle to the loins, but to enfold the whole manhood of believers. The idea is not that of protection from the coldness of an outside world, but that of the full adornment of Christian character. Believers are so to put on Christ that the world may see Christ in the believer himself.
2. Christ is put on for a constant covering. Not as a beautiful robe to be worn on high days and holidays, but on every day, in every scene of human life.
3. While believers are here represented as having put on Christ at their baptism, it is quite consistent for the apostle to say, "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 13:12), and "Put on the new man" (Ephesians 4:24). They are two sides of one great truth, representing in the one case a change that was complete from the very beginning, and in the other a change that is incomplete, but in process of still further development.
The unity of believers.
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is not male and female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."
I. IT IS AN ORGANIC UNITY. Believers are "one body in Christ" (Romans 12:4, Romans 12:5); "one man;" "one new man" (Ephesians 2:15). The unity in question is no ecclesiastical unity; for it joins together those who are ecclesiastically separated, and it connects together the believers of all generations. I. It has a sevenfold relationship. "There is one body, and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one hope of your calling, one God and Father of all" (Ephesians 4:4-6).
2. It is created in Christ by the Holy Spirit. It is Christ, not the Spirit, who "hath made both one" (Ephesians 2:14); and we, "being many, are made one body in Christ" (Romans 12:5). But wherever the Spirit is there is union with Christ. The indwelling of the Spirit is therefore the bond of unity in the Church.
II. IT IS A UNITY WHICH OBLITERATES OR IGNORES MANY WORLDLY OR NATURAL DISTINCTIONS. All distinctions, whether of condition, or nature, or sex, are in Christ lost sight of or forgotten.
1. National distinctions. "There is neither Jew nor Greek." This distinction meant much in pre-Christian ages. The Jews were God's peculiar people, blessed with great privileges and prepared for great destinies. The Greeks, representing the Gentile world, stood apart from the Jews—"aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise" (Ephesians 2:12). But Jew and Greek stand on exactly the same footing in the kingdom of God, possessed of equal privilege, equally sons of God, and equally heirs of God. Christ broke down the middle wall of partition that severed them for ages, and made them one commonwealth.
2. Distinctions of human station. "There is neither bond nor free." Slaves were excluded from certain rites of heathen worship. But Christ takes the slave by the hand and places him in his kingdom side by side with the free man. The largest body of practical counsel in the apostolic Epistles is directed to slaves.
3. The distinction of sex. "There is not male and female." The apostle does not touch the original subordination of the woman to the man, which is a still existing fact (1 Timothy 2:11-14), but shows how, religiously regarded, men and women are equal. Their relation to Christ does not destroy the old fact, but causes it to be lost sight of. How true it is that Christianity alone has elevated women, has created the sentiment which destroys slavery everywhere, and creates a better understanding among the nations of the world!
"And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Mark how the apostle moves from point to point.
I. BELIEVERS ARE CHRIST'S POSSESSION. They are so:
1. By gift. "Thine they were, and thou gavest them me" (John 17:6).
2. By purchase. "Ye are bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20).
3. By conquest. "The people shall be willing in the day of thy power" (Psalms 110:3).
4. By their own self-surrender. They are "a living sacrifice." They have "committed themselves to him" (2 Timothy 1:12).
II. CHRIST'S PEOPLE ARE ABRAHAM'S SEED. Christ himself is Abraham's Seed (verse 16), and therefore they, as one with him in the mystical union, are Abraham's seed.
III. THE HEIRSHIP OF PROMISE. They became heirs, not by any legal observances, but according to the promise made to Abraham.
1. The inheritance is the only one worth having.
2. It is the only one that can be kept for ever.
3. It is, unlike earthly riches or honours, within everybody's reach.
4. It is the duty of heirs to live according to their prospects, to walk worthy of a Father's house, and to behave like a brother to brethren.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
The bewitchery of Law.
Paul, having stated his position as dead to the Law and inspired by Christ, goes on in the present paragraph to appeal to the Galatians to free themselves from the bewitching power of Law, and to yield themselves to the faith in a crucified and now risen Christ, which alone secures justification and its cognate blessings. And here we notice—
I. HOW LAW CAN COMPETE SUCCESSFULLY WITH A CRUCIFIED SAVIOUR FOR THE HOMAGE OF THOUGHTLESS HEARTS. (Verse 1.) Paul here declares that two attractive powers had been presented to the Galatians—a crucified Christ in his own preaching, and the Law in the preaching of the Judaizers; and, to his amazement, the Law had so bewitched them as to lead them to look for salvation to Law-keeping instead of to the Saviour. And yet it only brings out the fact that there is in Law and self-righteousness a bewitchery which is continually leading souls back to bondage. It seems so natural to establish some claim by Law-keeping and ceremony that poor souls are from time to time falling into legal hope and its delusions. The superstition, which is abroad now, and leads so many to ceremonials for salvation, rests upon this foundation. It is the fascination of an evil eye which is upon the foolish votaries; they fancy they can save themselves by Law, and maintain their self-complacency and pride all the time. But it is delusion pure and simple.
II. ALL THAT LAW CAN REALLY DO FOR SINNERS IS TO CONDEMN THEM. (Verses 10, 13.) The position taken up by Law is this—to condemn every one who falls short of perfect obedience. No partial obedience will be entertained for a moment. "Every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the Law to do them," is by the Law "cursed." This tremendous deliverance ought to be the death of all "legal hope." The soul who continues to hope in the Law, after such a definite utterance only proclaims his foolishness. One breach of Law is sufficient to secure the curse. The Law maintains its demand for perfect obedience, and, if this be not rendered, it can do nothing but condemn. It becomes the more amazing that any after this could be bewitched by Law. Surely if the Law can only curse sinners, the sooner we look for salvation in some other direction than Law, the better. And to go back to Law-keeping from grace, in hope of acceptance, is clear retrogression.
III. JUSTIFICATION AND ITS COGNATE BLESSINGS CAN ONLY COME BY FAITH, (Verses 2-9, 12, 14.) The Law in the nature of things cannot justify sinners. It has no means of doing so. But God in his grace has provided a way of justification. It is through the merits of his Son. And here we must remember that imputation of merit is the commonest fact of experience. There is not one of us who does not get a start in life and a consideration extended to us which are due to the merits of others, a respected parent or some deeply interested friend. We are surrounded with a halo of glory by virtue of the character of others. Their character helps us to a position and opportunity we could not otherwise obtain. It may be called a mere association of ideas, but it is strictly the passing of merit over from man to man. In the same way Jesus Christ has come into our world, allied himself with our sinful race, merited consideration and acceptance by obedience to Law, even as far as death, and this merit of the Divine Man passes over to believers. In the Father's sight, therefore, we are regarded as just, notwithstanding all our sin. We have been justified through faith. But besides, the believers obtain the Spirit to dwell within them, so that a process of sanctification is set up within them as soon as justification takes place. And the indwelling Spirit may manifest his presence and power in wonderful works, as appears to have been the case with these Galatians (verse 5). So that Divine grace not only secures the justification of all who trust in Jesus, but their sanctification and spiritual power as well. Wondrous blessings are thus the outcome of Divine grace, and the heritage of those who believe. What a change from having to endure the curse of Law!
IV. ABRAHAM ILLUSTRATES THE BENEFIT OF FAITH IN GOD AS CONTRASTED WITH RELIANCE ON LAW. (Verses 6-9.) The legalists claimed Abraham as their father. One would have supposed that Abraham had been the greatest ceremonialist of the early dispensation. But the truth is that Abraham was justified and accepted by simply believing God when he promised a world-wide blessing through Abraham's seed. The blessing came to the patriarch through simple trust in God. Those who hoped in Law-keeping, therefore, were not the true followers of Abraham. It was only those who trusted God for salvation and blessing who walked in the patriarch's footsteps. Consequently, all the ceremonialism which tried to shelter itself under the wings of Abraham was a simple imposition ] The "merit-mongers," as Luther calls them in his ' Commentary,' have thus no pretence of countenance from the case of Abraham. It was to simple trust in God he owed his standing before him. How needful, then, it is for us to shake ourselves free from every remnant of self-righteousness, and to look simply and implicitly to Christ alone] It is by faith we stand and live. The Christ who became the curse for us by hanging on a tree, calls us to trust him for acceptance and inspiration; and in trusting him we find the promise amply redeemed.—R.M.E.
The covenant of promise.
Having taken up the case of Abraham as illustrating the necessity of faith, Paul proceeds to state the Abrahamic covenant as one of promise. The Mosaic covenant, promulgated four hundred and thirty years after, could not, he argues, disannul the previous covenant. It must have a supplementary purpose; and this he shows to be to drive the souls who have been made hopeless by the Law into the arms of the "faithful Promiser." The following lessons are suggested:—
I. THE COVENANT OF PROMISE MADE WITH CHRIST AS SEED OF ABRAHAM. (Galatians 3:15, Galatians 3:16.) We are too prone to contemplate the promises of God out of their relation to Christ. No wonder that they then seem incredible. They are too good news to be true. But the exceeding great and precious promises are all yea and amen in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20); they are promises made to Christ and secured by his obedience; and consequently they ought not to seem at any time incredible. Now, when God spoke to Abraham of a universal blessing being given through the patriarch's "Seed," it never suggested to Abraham any idea of merit upon his part. He simply hoped upon God's word, which would be fulfilled in due season. The Seed would convey the blessing. The old man's hope rested upon his Seed, the Christ whom the ages would reveal. The Seed might be meritorious, but Abraham felt that he himself was not. In the humility of felt helplessness, therefore, he trusted God, and found pardon and acceptance and inspiration through his trust. It is just here we must all begin. The Lord Jesus deserves the fulfilment of all the promises. The covenant of grace made with him by the Father has received a fulfilment of its conditions so far as he was concerned; and so he can claim the promises as no more than his due. Their guarantee is in his obedience unto death.
II. THE SINAITIC LAW COULD NOT DISANNUL THE COVENANT OF PROMISE. (Galatians 3:17, Galatians 3:18.) Four hundred and thirty years elapsed and, lo, another covenant is made with the seed of Abraham. At Sinai, and through the mediation of Moses and of angels, a "fiery Law" went forth from Heaven, and the question Paul answers here is what effect this latter covenant had upon the former. He adduces the fact that legal documents when once perfected are not disannulled by subsequent ones. The later documents must proceed upon the validity and power of the preceding. Hence the Mosaic Law could not render the Abrahamic covenant of promise null and void. It must consist with and supplement the preceding. The promise made to the seed of Abraham remained in force, notwithstanding the thunders of Mount Sinai. Nay, the thunders of Sinai were, as we shall next see, to incline the people to accept the previous promise. There was no antithesis between promise and Law; but Law came to incline the people to embrace the promise. There was something more venerable and more sacred even than the covenant at Sinai, and this was the promises made to Abraham in Canaan. These were the well-head of Jewish privileges. The Jews had not been called to law-keeping and self-righteousness, but to promises exceeding great and precious to be won by their Messiah. It was to faith, not to ceremony, that their system really summoned them.
III. THE PURPOSE OF THE LAW. (Galatians 3:19-22.) Was the Sinaitic covenant, then, a work of supererogation? By no means. It was a grand instrument, when rightly regarded, to drive sinners into a Saviour's arms. What did it require? Perfect obedience. Did the people at Mount Sinai fancy they could render it? Nay; the utterance of the ten commandments in the great and terrible tones convinced them that they could not stand up in their own strength before such a holy God. Hence their flight from the mount (Exodus 20:18). Hence their cry for the mediation of Moses (Galatians 3:19). In a word, the effect of the publication of the Law was to overwhelm the people with a sense of their sin. This is the purpose of the Law. It is not to feed man's hope of claiming life by law-keeping; it is, on the contrary, to kill that hope and send him to God's free grace that he may be saved by faith in the promises. The Law is to secure our despair of self that we may build all our hope on the Saviour. What, then, were the ceremonies of Judaism? They were embodiments of the promises. The Judaizers said," We are to be saved by observing these ceremonies;" but the truth was that the ceremonies were enacted to make the promises emphatic and to lead sinners away from self-righteousness to God and his mercy. The ceremonial Law was a pictorial gospel, to keep up the hearts of those whom the moral Law had reduced to despair; but the false teachers made the ceremonies saving, and so ignored the gospel they embodied. May we be kept from all analogous mistakes!—R.M.E.
The Law-school and the home-coming.
Paul, in the present section, pursues the thought of the purpose of Law. It is the tutor to convey certain lessons to the soul and to secure thereby the soul's return to the Father and the home. Let us look at the interesting line of thought thus given.
I. THE LAW-SCHOOL. (Galatians 3:23, Galatians 3:24.) The idea was once entertained that the Law, as παιδαγωγός, meant the slave who was entrusted with the guidance of the child to the school of Christ. But this notion is now abandoned, and, as the superior slaves were often entrusted with the education of the child to a certain age, the idea which is now accepted from this passage is that the soul goes to the school of the Law, and learns from the Law the lessons which fit it for coming home to Christ. Christ is not the Schoolmaster to whom Law leads the soul, but is the elder Brother of the Divine family to whom the lessons of the schoolmaster, the Law, leads the enlightened soul. The Law-school is an institution of great strictness and severity. Hence we are represented here as "kept in ward under the Law" (Revised Version). Like one of the great barracks which are called euphoniously "public schools," and where, as in public prisons, the youths are for some hours daily confined, and out of which they are thankful to escape; so the Mosaic Law is meant to be the severe training-school which will make us relish ever so much the freedom and comfort of home.
II. THE BURDEN OF ITS TEACHING. (Galatians 3:24.) The lesson of the Law is personal unworthiness, the impossibility of our ever saving ourselves. The more we study the ten commandments, the more we enter into the spirit and meaning of the moral Law, the deeper must be our conviction that we cannot keep it perfectly, and so must be liable to its penalties. But the Jews, instead of holding hard to the teaching of the moral Law, turned their back upon it and betook themselves to the ceremonial Law as their hope of life. Their notion was that, though they might neglect the weightier matters of the Law, such as judgment, mercy, and faith, they were perfectly safe so long as they tithed the mint, the anise, and the cummin (Matthew 23:23). Instead of learning Law's lesson and being "shut up to faith," they mistook the lesson altogether and shut themselves up to ceremony. The Law was meant to defeat self-righteousness; the pupils allowed it to minister to self-righteousness. Instead of being shut up to faith, they remained in the school of Law for ever and never got home. Now, every well-conducted school impresses upon its pupils the desirability of their getting beyond its lessons and its confinement. The broad liberty of manhood and of home lies in supposed sunlight beyond it, and the school training encourages the vision. So with God's Law; it is designed to create a longing for the liberty in Christ and the larger opportunities that liberty implies.
III. THE HOME-COMING. (Galatians 3:25, Galatians 3:26.) If we learn the true lesson from the Law, we are carried by it to the feet of Christ, and we seek justification by trusting him. Faith is thus the home-coming of the soul; and undoubtedly no schoolboy ever came whistling so joyfully home, even when his home-coming was the final one, as the soul does which has learned to trust and love Christ. Then the sense of imprisonment and confinement gives place to a sense of freedom. As children of God in Christ Jesus, we rejoice in the abundant liberty of home. Our education is so far finished when we have learned to hope in our elder Brother only. Then do we know what it is to be "at home" with God. The prodigal son enjoyed himself greatly at the father's banquet, and so do all of us; for we are all prodigals by nature, when by faith and repentance we come home to God.
IV. UNITY IN CHRIST. (Galatians 3:27, Galatians 3:28.) The home-coming is attended by the entertainment of the Christian spirit. By that spirit all caste-distinctions die. Having put on Christ, we do not look contemptuously on any, but hopefully on all. The Jew and the Greek forget their national differences and separations; the bond and the free do not dwell despairingly or proudly on the accident of birth; the man does not tyrannize over the woman, and neither will the Christian woman, when she secures her rights, tyrannize over the man; but each and all will rejoice in their unity in Christ. Christ thus proves himself to be the unifying element in the human race. Coming near to each, he brings each near to all, and establishes around his person the brotherhood of man.
V. FAITH ALSO INTRODUCES SOULS TO THE PRIVILEGES OF THE ABRAHAMIC FAMILY. (Galatians 3:29.) Unquestionably the Jews were the heirs of magnificent promises. But is it carnal Jews that are to get them? is it men who are only descended from Abraham according to the flesh? Nay; Abraham has a spiritual seed, and all who are Christ's through faith become children of Abraham. Paul thus proclaims a chosen generation, whose fellowship may be entered by faith and not by circumcision, by the Christian spirit and not by Jewish ceremony. This is better than converting the world to Judaism, to convert it to Christ, and through relationship to Christ to count kindred with Abraham. "We are the circumcision," as he says to the Philippian converts, "who worship God in the spirit, who rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3). The Law teaches us a precious lesson if it sends us for salvation to Christ, and enables us to find in fellowship with our Lord the privileges of the chosen people becoming ours.—R.M.E.
HOMILIES BY R. FINLAYSON
Appeal to experience and Scripture.
I. FOOLISHNESS OF THE GALATIANS SHOWN FROM THEIR OWN EXPERIENCE.
1. Expression of astonishment in view of their first impressions of the cross. "O foolish Galatians, who did bewitch you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth crucified?" Paul's address to Peter concluded with his presenting the dreadful supposition of Christ having died for nought. He with that turns to the Galatians, and calls to their recollection the memorable impression which the first presentation of Christ crucified had made on their minds. There had been, as it were, a localization of the cross among them. Christ had been so presented to them that preacher and time and place were all forgotten. There on Galatian soil was the cross erected; there was the Holy One and the Just taken and nailed to the tree; there his blood flowed forth for the remission of sins. And they were deeply affected, as if the crucifixion scene] had passed before their eyes. It is a blessed fact that the evil of our nature is not insuperable—that there is in the cross what can act on it like a spell. Even the greatest sinners have been arrested and entranced by the eye of the Crucified One. It is, on the other hand, a serious fact that evil can be presented to us in a fascinating form. Here the Galatians are described as those who had been bewitched. It was as if some one had exerted an evil spell on them. His evil eye had rested on them and held them so that they could not see him by whose crucifixion they had formerly been so much affected. And the apostle wonders who it could be that had bewitched them. Who had been envious of the influence which the Crucified One had obtained over them? What false representations had he made? What flattering promises had he held out? Such a one had great guilt on his head; but they also were chargeable with foolishness in allowing themselves to be bewitched by him. The Galatians were by no means stupid; they were rather of quick perception. They had the strong emotional qualities of the Celtic nature; their temptation was sudden change of feeling. They were foolish in yielding to their temptation, in not subjecting their feelings to the guidance of reason, in not using the Divine helps against their being bewitched. And the apostle, in charging home foolishness on them, would have them recall what the cross had once been in their eyes, in order to break the present spell of evil.
2. The one admission he asks of them in order to prove their foolishness. "This only would I learn from you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith?" He felt that he had such a hold on them from their past experiences that he could have asked of them many admissions. With one, however, he will be content. This had reference to the reception of the Spirit. The gospel dispensation was the dispensation of the Spirit. It was by the sacrifice of Christ that the Spirit was really obtained. It was soon after the offering of that sacrifice that the Spirit was poured out, as though liberated from previous restraints. The great blessing, then, of that dispensation, obtained they it by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith? The Law is to be understood in the sense of the Mosaic Law, which the Judaists sought to impose on Gentile Christians. The Law and faith are here placed in opposition. Works are the characteristic of the Law; hearing is the characteristic of faith. Was it, then, by Law-working that they had received the Spirit? When would it quantitatively and qualitatively have sufficed for their receiving the Spirit? Was it not the case, too, that the great majority of them in the Galatian Churches had not been under the Law? They had not been circumcised, and yet the Spirit had been received by them. Was it not, then, by the hearing which belongs to faith? They had not tediously to elaborate a Law-righteousness. They had not to work for a righteousness at all. They had simply to hear in connection with the preaching of the gospel. They had to listen to the proclamation of a righteousness elaborated for them. And while their faith was imperfect, and could not be in itself the ground of their justification, they had, as perfectly justified, received the Spirit.
3. Two points in which their foolishness was shown at its height. "Are ye so foolish?"
(1) They belied the beginning they had made. "Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now perfected in the flesh?" They began by renouncing the flesh, by confessing that, with the weak elements in their nature, they never could arrive at perfection. In despair of the flesh, then, and in order to be delivered from its weakness, they cast themselves upon the Spirit. They called in Divine help against their sinful tendencies. This was the right beginning to make. And having thus begun, they should have gone on, in dependence on the help of the Spirit, toward perfection. But they were proving untrue to the beginning they had made. They were going back to the flesh which they professed to have left behind as a source of dependence. They were now saying that it, forsooth, with all its weakness, was able. to bring about their 'perfection.'
(2) They stultified their sufferings. Did ye suffer so many things in vain? if it be indeed in vain." It is to be inferred that they suffered persecution. They suffered many things, though of their sufferings we have no record. They suffered for Christ, and it may have been for liberty in him. That gave a noble character to their sufferings, and promised a glorious reward. But now, with their changed relation to Christ, those sufferings had lost their character. There was no longer a Christian halo around them. They were simply a blunder, what might have been avoided. They could not hope, then, for the reward of the Christian confessor or martyr. The apostle is, however, unwilling to believe that the matter has ended with them. In the words which he appends, "if it be indeed in vain," he not only leaves a loophole of doubt, but makes an appeal to them not to throw away that which they had nobly won.
4. The one admission reverted to with special reference to the miraculous operations of the Spirit. "He therefore that supplieth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith?" It was God who supplied the Spirit to them. He especially supplied the power of working miracles. It is taken for granted that miracles were still being wrought in connection with the Galatian Churches. The miraculous operations of the Spirit are not more remarkable in themselves than his ordinary operations; but they were more exceptional. Being more easily appreciated, too, they were especially fitted to attract attention to Christianity, and to commend it to them that were outside. And as the Galatians had thrown doubt on their relation to Christianity, he very naturally meets them by making his appeal to the evidence of miracles. Did God give any token of his approval to those who were identified with the works of the Law—to the Judaizing teachers? Was there any exceptional power possessed by them? Did not God work miracles through those who were identified with the hearing of faith—through the preachers of the gospel? And was that not conclusive evidence that he was with them in their teaching?
II. THE CASE OF ABRAHAM WITH REFERENCE TO JUSTIFICATION.
1. He was justified by faith. Scripture statement. "Even as Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness." There could be no question regarding the high authority of Abraham's example. And the best way to deal with it was in connection with Scripture. What, then, was the Scripture account of Abraham's justification? In Genesis 15:6 it is said, "He believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness.'' It is not "He was circumcised, and that was reckoned unto him for righteousness." There is no mention of his justification in connection with his circumcision. Indeed, he was justified before he was circumcised. Abraham's case, then, tells against justification by the works of the Law. On the other hand, he was a signal example of the hearing of faith. He heard God saying to him, "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee;" and he went forth, leaving country and kindred and home, not knowing whither he went. He heard God saying that he should have a seed numerous as the stars of heaven, and it was his crediting this as God's word, though it conflicted with all human experience, that was reckoned unto him for righteousness. Again, he heard God commanding him to offer up the son of the promise, and, notwithstanding all the difficulties it involved, he acted upon what he heard. It is true that this was personal righteousness so far as it went. It was the right disposition towards God. Abraham approved himself before God by his faith, and by his works which evidenced his faith. But it is not said that this was his righteousness. It was not meritorious righteousness; it was simply faith grasping the Divine word which made him righteous. It was imperfect faith, and therefore could not be the ground of his justification. But the language is that "it was reckoned unto him for righteousness." Though his faith was not meritorious, was imperfect, it was reckoned unto him as though he had fulfilled the whole Law. From the moment of his hearing in faith he was fully justified. Inference. "Know therefore that they which be of faith, the same are sons of Abraham.'' The contention of the Judaists would be that the keepers of the Law were the true sons of Abraham. The apostle regards this Scripture as a disproof of their position. Abraham was notably a believer. He heard God speaking to him on various occasions, and it was his humbly distrusting his own judgment and listening to the voice of God for which he was commended. It was, therefore, to be known, to be regarded as indisputable, that believers, those who have faith as the source of their life, and not those who are of the works of the Law, are the true sons of Abraham.
2. The promise on which his faith rested. Scripture with preface. "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed." The Scripture is here put in place of the Author of Scripture, and foresight is ascribed to it which is properly to be ascribed to God. The foresight of God was shown in the form in which the promise was given. It had nothing of Jewish exclusiveness about it, but was suitable to gospel times. Indeed, it could be described as the gospel preached beforehand unto Abraham. The language recalls our Lord's words, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad." It was the promise of blessing without any restriction of contents. It was the promise of blessing to all nations. There was thus the same ring about it that there was about the angelic message when Jesus was born: "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." And God, having in view the extension of the blessing to the Gentiles, promised it in Abraham. He did not promise it in Moses, who was identified with the Law; but he promised it in Abraham, who was characteristically a believer. The being in him points to Abraham, not only as a believer, but as holding the position of the father of believers. He was thus more than an example of the mode of justification. It was in him that the blessing was given, that the connection was formed between faith and justification. It is as his seed, or sons, that it is to be obtained by us. General inference. "So then they which be of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham." He has already shown who the sons of Abraham are, viz. "they which be of faith." Founding, then, upon that, as well as upon what he has just quoted, his conclusion is that believers are sharers with Abraham in his blessing. He not only stood in the relation of father to believers: as a believer himself, he was blessed. He had especially the blessing of justification, which has been referred to. And along with him do all believers enjoy especially the blessing of justification.
(1) A curse lies on the workers of the Law. "For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse." So far from enjoying the blessing, they are under the curse. Having laid down this proposition, he establishes it in the most conclusive manner. Even the form of the syllogism is apparent. Major proposition. "For it is written, Cursed is every one which continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the Law, to do them." The words are a quotation from Deuteronomy 27:26. They form the conclusion of the curses pronounced from Mount Ebal. The Law requires obedience to be rendered to it in every precept. And it requires obedience to all time. If a person kept all the precepts and transgressed only one, or if he transgressed one at last after having kept all for a lifetime, he would thereby be placed in a wrong relation to the Law, and would be subject to its curse, as really as though he had been a flagrant and lifelong transgressor. All are cursed who do not render whole and continued obedience to the Law. Minor proposition. "Now that no man is justified by the Law in the sight of God, is evident." Of the major proposition he did not need to offer any proof because it is Scripture; but this minor proposition, in his singular love for proof, especially from Scripture, he will not assume. It therefore becomes the conclusion of another syllogism Major proposition of second syllogism. "For, The righteous shall live by faith." This is cited from Habakkuk 2:4, and is also cited in Romans 1:17 and Hebrews 10:38. The spirit of the Old Testament passage is given. The reference was to a season of danger from the Chaldeans. An announcement of deliverance was made in plain terms. "Behold," it is added, "his soul [either of the Chaldean or of the heedless Jew] which is lifted up is not upright in him;" i.e. priding himself in his own sufficiency, he was destitute of righteousness, and therefore it was to be presumed, from the theocratic standpoint, would perish; "but the just shall live by faith;" i.e. relying on promised help, he would be righteous, and thus obtain the theocratic blessing of deliverance. The New Testament bearing is obvious. Relying on Divine righteousness, he is righteous, and thus has title to life. Formally, what the apostle lays down here is that none but believers are justified. Minor proposition of second syllogism. "And the Law is not of faith; but, He that doeth them shall live in them." The principle of faith is reliance on the promise in order to obtain a title to life. The principle of the Law, as brought out in the quotation from Leviticus 18:5, is reliance on our own doing of all the precepts in order to obtain a title to life. Thus all doers must be excluded from the class of believers. And thus, by formal proof, is the minor proposition of the first syllogism established, viz. No man is justified by the Law in the sight of God. And, it being established, the conclusion of that syllogism follows, which is given in the first clause of the tenth verse, "As many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse."
(2) How the blessing is enjoyed by believers. Redemption from the curse. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." The Jews (with whom Paul identifies himself) were under the curse of the Law for many precepts transgressed, and transgressed many times. They found a Redeemer from the curse in Christ, who redeemed them by becoming a curse for them, i.e. on their behalf, and, by implication at least, in their stead. The transference of the curse, as of sin, was quite familiar to the Jewish mind. He not only became cursed, but abstractly and more strongly he became a curse; he became the receptacle of the curse of the Law. And in his great fondness for Scripture exhibited in the whole of this paragraph, the apostle points out that this was in accordance with words found in Deuteronomy 21:23, "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." The words did not refer to crucifixion, which was not a Jewish mode of putting to death; but referred to the hanging of the body of a criminal on a tree after death as a public spectacle. The words were applicable to Christ, because he was made a public spectacle, not only in hanging on a tree, but in being nailed to a tree. The infamy which Christ was subjected to from men was a very subordinate element in his death. There was especially the wrath which he endured from God, the hiding of the Father's face from him as the Representative of sinners. This was the curse (all curses in one) by bearing which he became Redeemer. Twofold aim of redemption. Extension of the blessing to the Gentiles. "That upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus." The effect of the endurance of the curse was the opening of the blessing to the Gentiles. The Law, in its precepts and curse, no longer presented an obstacle. The whole meaning of the Law was realized; the whole curse of the Law was exhausted. So complete was the satisfaction rendered, that there could be no supplementing it by works of the Law. All that was needed was faith to receive the satisfaction presented in Christ, and not in the Law, for justification. Thus did the blessing attain its world-wide character, announced to Abraham. Gentiles had simply to believe, like Abraham, in order to be blessed in and with Abraham. Reception of the Spirit. "That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." Not only was there the extension of the blessing enjoyed among the Jews, which was eminently justification (as appears from the whole strain of this paragraph); but this extension was signalized by the sending of a richer blessing. This was the realization of the promise of the Spirit. In this the Jews were sharers. All alike were recipients of the Spirit, simply through faith. And thus the apostle, after a remarkable chain of arguments, comes back to the point from which he started.—R.F.
Promise and Law.
From this point the apostle has a softened tone toward the Galatians. He deals with them now more in the way of instruction and counsel than of correction and rebuke.
I. THE PROMISE WAS NOT INVALIDATED BY THE LAW.
1. Human analogy. "Brethren, I speak after the manner of men: Though it be but a man's covenant, yet when it hath been confirmed, no one maketh it void, or addeth thereto." When the apostle professes to speak after the manner of men, he is not thinking of himself as having to come down from the spiritual standpoint, but of God as greater than man, and of his having to use a certain freedom in arguing as he does from a man's covenant to God's covenant. We are not to understand "covenant" in the sense of" testament." It is an engagement under which one comes to another with or without engagement on the part of that other. To be thoroughly valid a covenant must be confirmed. Testimony must be given that an engagement has been really and fully entered into. The signing of a legal document is a common mode of confirmation. We read frequently in old times of confirmation by oath. When a covenant has been confirmed, no one maketh it void or addeth thereto. Meyer says, "no third party;" but the language is applicable even to the person who comes under engagement. He is not free to set his engagement aside or to modify it by additions. It is different from the case of a testator while he is still living. In signing a will he has come under no engagement to any one, and is free to cancel it or to add a codicil. But when an engagement has been entered into it can neither be set aside nor modified by additions, but stands to be carried out to the letter.
2. Two points to be taken into account in applying the analogy.
(1) The covenant with Abraham was of the nature of a promise. "Now to Abraham were the promises spoken." This brings down the general idea of covenant to a special kind. Promise is not a contracting for benefit and with conditions. In its purest form, as employed by the apostle, it is an engagement to bestow blessing, without conditions attached. It is here used in the plural number, not because distinct blessings were promised, but because the same blessing was repeatedly promised, with variety of form and circumstance.
(2) The covenant of promise was made, not only with Abraham, but included Christ. "And to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many: but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." With resemblance in form to the rabbinical style of argument, this cannot be said to have anything of rabbinical feebleness. The point is, that the idea of plurality might have been brought out in the form given to the promise. It might have been said, "And to thy descendants," thus excluding reference to one in particular. Instead of that it was said, "And to thy seed," which is applicable, though not necessarily limited in application, to one. The apostle, having pointed this out, declares (does not argue) that there was an intended application to Christ. As he was the Seed of the woman, so also was he the Seed of Abraham. The, bearing of the declaration is, that, Christ having been included in the promise, it had to be made good to him as well as to Abraham.
3. Application of the analogy.
(1) Position. "Now this I say: A covenant confirmed beforehand by God, the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years after, doth not disannul, so as to make the promise of none effect." So far as God was concerned, the promise had full validity as soon as it was announced (Genesis 13:15). So far as Abraham was concerned, it was confirmed by the fire passing between the pieces of the sacrifice (Genesis 15:17), and by oath (Genesis 22:18), and also by repetition (Genesis 17:8). It was also confirmed to the other patriarchs (Genesis 26:4; Genesis 28:4). That being the case, it could not be set aside by the Law, which was four hundred and thirty years later. If it had been a covenant with conditions, then it might have been inferred that, the conditions not having been complied with, the Law had been introduced. Thus the Law would virtually have displaced the covenant. But the apostle's position is that the covenant, being of the nature of promise, there could be no displacing of it by the Law. "So as to make the promise of none effect" comes in as qualifying the assertion. Whatever covenant the Law might have displaced, it could never displace a covenant of pure promise.
(2) Argument by which it is supported. "For if the inheritance is of the Law, it is no more of promise: but God hath granted it to Abraham by promise." The blessing is described as the inheritance, which had a reference beyond the land of Canaan to the heavenly Canaan, and even to the whole earth, which is now to be regarded as the earthly Canaan. If the inheritance was associated with the Law, then it must never have been promised. For promise, according to the apostle's understanding of it, is engagement to bless without conditions. But the inheritance never could be associated with the Law. For it was authenticated that God free]y- promised it to Abraham. By this promise, then, to speak after the manner of men, God was bound. He was not in the position of a testator who could cancel or add fresh clauses. Nor was he in the position of one who had made a covenant with conditions which had not been complied with. But having given an unconditional promise, he could not under any circumstances withdraw it.
II. FOUR POINTS IN WHICH THE LAW DIFFERED FROM THE PROMISE. "What then is the Law?"
1. It was additional to the promise. "It was added because of transgressions.'' It was never intended to stand alone. It was simply intended to be an adjunct to the promise already given and still continuing in force. "It was added because of transgressions." There is not yet brought into view the purpose which the Law served with reference to transgressions, checking them, making them clear. It is simply indicated that the introduction of the Law was necessitated by the disposition to transgress. There is the same teaching here as by our Lord with regard to the law of divorce. It was not, he said, so from the beginning; but was necessitated by the hardness of men's hearts. So, with regard to the Law and its rigour, it was not so from the beginning. God began with promise; and it was only when it was not sufficiently responded to that the Law was introduced, not as a substitute, but as an addition to the promise.
2. It was a temporary addition. "Till the seed should come to whom the promise hath been made." As it was an after institution, so it was never intended to last. It had not the permanence which belonged to the promise. It had reference to the coming of the Seed to whom the promise had been made. That was the great reason of its existence. There is not yet brought into view the purpose which the Law served with reference to the coming Seed. It is simply indicated that it was so related to Christ that, when he came to receive the promise, it was necessarily done away as an institution.
3. It was given mediately by God. "And it was ordained through angels." The connection of the angels with the giving of the Law was prominent in Jewish tradition. It is remarkable that there is no mention of them in the historical account in Exodus. They are thus introduced in Deuteronomy 33:2 : "The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them: he shined forth from Mount Paran, and he came with ten thousand of his saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them." The ten thousand of his holy ones were doubtless angels. So in Psalms 68:17 it is said, "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels; the Lord is among them as in Sinai, in the holy place." This fact was so recognized among the Jews that Stephen could tell them that they had received the Law by the disposition of angels. Their connection with it was not confined to accompanying the Lord, or ordering the miraculous accompaniment. But the language in Hebrews—"the word spoken by angels"—taken along with the language here, points to them as the instruments employed by God in delivering the Law. This circumstance is introduced by the apostle here, in keeping with the context, not to glorify the Law, but to show that God stood at a distance from men in the giving of the Law. It was something which was in a manner foreign to him. Therefore, in giving it he did not come immediately into contact with men, but interposed angels on his side.
4. It was mediately received by men. "By the hand of a mediator." This was Moses. "I stood between the Lord and you." In the giving of the Law great stress was laid on the fact that the people were not fit to draw near to God to receive it from him. Therefore a mediator was interposed on man's side. Added comment on double mediation. "Now a mediator is not a mediator of one; but God is one." It is said that there have been as many as four hundred and thirty different interpretations of these words. If that speaks to extraordinary labour bestowed on the interpretation of the words, it also speaks to extraordinary misdirection of labour. It can be said that new there is substantial unanimity of interpretation. The first statement does not refer to Moses nor to Christ, but to a mediator generally; and means that a mediator implies two parties, between whom the mediation takes place. The second statement, that God is one, has often been taken to mean that God is one of the two parties, the children of Israel being the other party, which is pointless for the purpose of the argument. It means that God is mediatorless in the promise. In the Law, God kept at a distance, interposing mediators on his side and interposing also a mediator on man's side. But in the promise God came immediately into contact with Abraham, employing no mediator, but speaking to him as to a friend.
III. THE LAW WAS NOT ANTAGONISTIC TO THE PROMISE. "IS the Law then against the promises of God? God forbid." In keeping with what has been said, God identifies himself with the promises, and not with the Law. They were not, however, antagonistic.
1. The Law did not supply the condition of the blessing. "For if there had been a Law given which could make alive, verily righteousness would have been of the Law." In the case supposed (righteousness being of the Law, and so making alive), the Law would have been antagonistic to the promise. There would have been an antagonistic mode of justification. The blessing would have been put on the ground of obedience to the Law. The apostle repudiates that supposition, without any disparagement of the Mosaic Law. It had a perfectness of its own. If there had been a Law fitted to give life, he strongly asserts that would have been the Mosaic Law. It was raised above all mere human law. It presented an admirable idea of righteousness. That it did not actually effect righteousness was simply because that was impossible.
2. The Scripture represented men as all shut up to the obtaining of the blessing simply by faith. "Howbeit the Scripture hath shut up all things under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe." Scripture is not the Law, but rather that which holds Law and promise in harmony. The office ascribed to Scripture is peculiar. It has placed, not only all men but all things (man's surroundings) under sin as gaoler. In this imprisonment there was not finality. On the contrary, it was with the view of magnifying the promise. Not by doing the Law, but by believing the promise, is the blessing attained. As the promise was made good to Jesus Christ, and was thus identified with him, faith in him, as obtaining the blessing for us, has become the simple and all-sufficient principle of the religious life.—R.F.
Before and after faith.
I. BEFORE FAITH CAME. "But before faith came." The faith which is here brought into prominence is that which was historically manifested when Christ came. Faith existed before Christianity, as is evident from the eleventh of Hebrews. There was trust in the Divine word. But the attitude toward Christ was that of expectancy. "We who had before hoped in Christ." It had been faith along with the observance of the Mosaic Law. But when the gospel of salvation was preached, it was faith, pure and simple, on Christ.
1. The state of God's people under the Law. "We were kept in ward under the Law, shut up." They were wards of the Law. A strict watch was kept over them, as those who could not manage themselves. This went the length of their being in custody.
(1) There were manifold restrictions. The limits were greatly narrowed within which they were free to act. Even their common life was encompassed with ceremonial regulations. However good these were, there was this to be said, that they were outwardly imposed. And they had the effect of multiplying the occasions of offence. They made many things sins which were not sins in themselves. There was thus a heavy pressure laid on the life. The moral Law, too, came in with its oppressive "Thou shalt not."
(2) There was the feeling of helplessness produced. The Law represented the Divine requirement. As a revelation of what God required, it raised a very high ideal. God was to be loved with the whole soul, and a man's neighbour as himself. But at the same time, it did not bring with it strength for the attainment of this ideal. It, therefore, sometimes even stimulated the sinful life. It excited desires which it had not power to quell. And thus it worked towards despondency.
(3) There was the feeling of guilt produced. The Law revealed what ought to have been attained; but, revealing at the same time the wide distance between the ideal raised and the actual attainment, instead of being a witness of its high ends as accomplished, it became an accuser.
(4) There were appeals to fears. Its "Thou shalt not" was accompanied with a threat. There was a curse pronounced on the breaking of every one of its requirements.
(5) There was the feeling of condemnation produced. The Law, in showing them their guilt, showed them also to be condemned sinners, actually lying under the curse. Thus the outcome of its working was the eliciting of the cry, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?"
2. The goal intended for them. "Unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed." It is to be remembered that the Law existed alongside of the promise, to which it was simply an addition. It is to be remembered, also, that the ceremonial part of the Law had promise largely mixed up with it, many of the types being really promises. And, so far as the promise was concerned, there could be, in the religious life of those times, a feeling of liberty in the enjoyment of forgiveness and in the hope of the attainment of their ideal. There was grace, too, in the heart of the Law. It was a disciplinary institution, preparatory to Christianity. It was with a view to the people of God being brought into a higher state, into the freer relation of faith, which was to be revealed when Christ came. Illustration. "So that the Law hath been our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith." The pedagogue (formerly translated "schoolmaster," now "tutor") was one who got his name born leading the child to school. He had the responsible office of superintending the education of the child, and also his morals and manners. He had strictly to regulate and watch over the employments and deportment of the child, and he was armed with the power of punishment. The pedagogic function is what belongs to every parent. He has himself or by deputy to educate his child, physically, intellectually, morally, and spiritually. The restrictions he has to lay on the employment of his time, thoughts, energies, are not agreeable to him, but they are with a view to his being of age. The Law is thus laid upon him that it may be ultimately within him, and that he may do that which is right and proper with no sense of bondage. The people of God were under the Law as under a pedagogue. They were treated as children, and had their duty minutely prescribed to them and their fears appealed to. This produced a sense of bondage, but it was that by-and-by they might the better welcome Christ and those higher influences he was to bring with him. The feeling of guilt and condemnation which the Law produced was that Christ might be longed for in his justifying merit to be received through faith.
II. NOW THAT FAITH IS COME. "But now that faith is come."
1. Christian emancipation. "We are no longer under a tutor." We are no longer under the discipline of the Mosaic institution. We do not need rules outwardly imposed on us, nosy that the higher Christian influences are operative in us. We are absolutely freed from the ceremonial Law, which received its fulfilment in Christ. The moral Law could never be called Mosaic, rather it was that round which the whole Mosaic institution was gathered. We are freed from it as the ground of our justification or condemnation. But it is still needed to hold up before us higher ideas of righteousness. It is still needed to work in us deeper conviction of sin. It is still needed to keep us to the true source of our security. But what thus disciplines us, is the Law as it has received its highest exhibition in the cross of Christ. From it, as connected with the Mosaic institution, we are freed.
2. Christian sonship.
(1) The relation described. "For ye are all sons of God." Gentiles as well as Jews are sons of God. We are not in the relation of slaves, without any feeling of freedom. Neither are we in the relation of servants, with such freedom as belongs to them. But we are in the freest relation of sons of God. Neither are we mere children, but we are sons that have come of age. That does not mean that we are to leave our Father's house. "The servant goeth away; the son abideth ever." We are independent, not in being liberated from our Father's control, but in having our Father's will so much within our heart that we act according to it without the need of rules being imposed on us.
(2) How the relation is formed. "Through faith." We are not sons of God by virtue of our living in a Christian land. Multitudinism is alien to Christianity. We cannot be Christians merely in the mass. The state, whatever it has to do with religion, cannot relieve us of the responsibility of acting for ourselves. We are not sons of God by virtue of our connection with godly parents. There is a certain law of heredity in religion. "The unfeigned faith that is in thee; which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and, I am persuaded, in thee also." The promise is to us and to our children; therefore there is encouragement to use the means. Still, all that parents can do is to act upon their children by good advice and example and prayer. They cannot relieve their children, any more than the state its subjects, of the responsibility of thinking and acting for themselves. We are not sons of God by virtue of our having been baptized. Baptism, as we shall presently see, is an important Christian rite. It should be attended with regenerating grace. Only, when there is no evidence of regeneration in the life, it is vain to be satisfied with baptism. It should be used simply as an argument for taking action in accordance with it. We are not sons of God by virtue of our being members of a Christian Church. There has been, in this case, examination by a representative of the Church, and admission has been granted; but this is not to be rested upon. Man is not the lord of our conscience. Every one must judge for himself as to the evidences of his being a child of God. And if he was not a child of God before admission, the fact of his admission will not make him one. He is just presumably what he was before. The Church has no magical virtue. It can assist men in becoming children of God, but it cannot do more than assist. And when Church connection does not benefit, it will certainly add to condemnation. But we are sons of God through faith. This is the instrument by which we become sons of God. We take action for ourselves. Our souls lay hold upon Christ. We place our dependence on his finished work, and we are not only justified, but are adopted into the family of God.
(3) Causal element in which our sonship subsists. "In Christ Jesus." Christ alone can make us sons of God. Our rulers cannot make us sons of God. Our parents cannot make us sons of God. A rite like baptism cannot make us sons of God. Even the Church cannot make us sons of God. Christ alone can. He is not the means, but the efficient cause. It is in him that our sonship is originated and is maintained.
(4) Sign of our sonship. "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ." By insisting on faith the apostle has supplied a counteractive to superstitious ideas of baptism. But this shows how much importance he attached to it. Baptized into Christ, they did put on Christ. And from the connection it is to be understood that they so put on Christ in baptism as to stand in the same relation to God in which Christ stands to God.
3. Christian equality.
(1) What it is. It sometimes matters very essentially in whose hands is the advocacy of a doctrine. In the hands of the communists, who have the modern intellectual activity without any hold upon the everlasting principles of religion, there is no more dangerous doctrine than that of equality. As used by them, it would lead to complete anarchy, disturbing altogether the present order and putting no stable order in its stead. It is already, in one or other of its phases, producing a feeling of insecurity among the supporters of old institutions, extending to that of monarchy. Paul, also, is an advocate of equality; but he was held by everlasting truth and love. And, in his hands, equality is a safe doctrine, which would indeed be the salvation of society, curing present canker and alienation, and introducing a blessed order such as would realize the golden age. As men we are essentially equal. "God hath made of one blood all nations of men that dwell upon the earth." We lay aside this and that and all the other unlikenesses, till we come to that which refuses to be taken away. And this, we say, is man, the same as to kind under all conditions. The apostle pointed to the everlasting common humanity, when he quoted to the Athenians the words, "For we are also his offspring." Adam, the source of humanity, is declared to be the son of God, i.e. by constitution. "Which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God." What Christianity does is, not to add a new element of sonship to our constitution, but to bring us back into the reality and forward into the full flood of this relationship. It is after establishing our sonship in Christ that Paul proceeds here to lay down his doctrine of Christian equality. And by it he means that, in regard to this most essential element, there are no classes, no distinctions. There are not some in the position of superiors and others in the position of inferiors, but all are placed on the same platform, and that the highest platform of sonship. All are sons of God, therefore all are equal.
(2) Specimens of earthly distinctions which are obliterated in Christ. "There can be neither Jew nor Greek." The Greek is the weaker member in this coupling, but he was by no means to be despised. As there was greater natural inventiveness among the descendants of Cain than among the descendants of Seth, so there was greater intellectual force and culture among the Greeks than among the Jews. Not to speak of their art, their poetry, their philosophy, their language itself, slowly formed, was a magnificent product of mind. Significant of a widespread Greek influence, that language had mastered even the Jews. The mob at Jerusalem were prepared to hear a Greek oration from Paul, only they gave the more silence when he spoke in the Jewish vernacular. And, what was more, the Greek language was chosen by God as the medium of conveying the Christian revelation. And yet the Jew, thus inferior, was of more consequence than the Greek. In the wise purposes of God, which looked beyond one nation, the Jew was raised to very high religious privilege, and any Greek could only share in the same privilege by being naturalized as a Jew. But what was Jewish was at best only external and subject to removal, and was actually removed when the Divine purposes were matured. And now, in and through Christ, the universal Mediator, the Gentile is as near and dear to God as is the Jew. We are so much accustomed to the Gentile being in Christian privilege that it is more to the point now to say that the Jew is as near and dear to God as is the Gentile. Under Christianity there is no privileged nation. In Colossians it is said that there is neither barbarian nor Scythian in Christ. The Scythians were those who appeared barbarians to the barbarians. In Christ there is no barbarian far down in the scale of civilization. There is not even the Scythian, down at the very bottom and only too readily despised by the despised. Christ does not belong to the white skin; but even under the black skin and crisp hair and imperfect configuration there may be the same consciousness of sonship that the finest of Europeans has, in Christ. There is a common ground, upon which all peoples and nations and tribes can meet, deep down below all distinctions of colour and figure and civilization, which thus appear as unessential. "There can be neither bond nor free." There can be no greater diversity in social position than between the bondman and the freeman. It may be said to be infinite; for the freeman has rights—rights to bestow his labour where he thinks he can get most for it, rights to demand redress if he thinks himself injured, to be judged if he is complained of. But the bondman has no rights, being classed as a chattel. Cato, censor-general of morals, a Roman more virtuous than the Romans, gives written advice to the farmers" to sell worn-out iron implements, old slaves, sick slaves, and other odds and ends that have no further use on the farm!" But, though thus put out of the ranks and trampled upon by men, he could be conscious in his own mind of his rights as a man, and, what availed more, through the gospel of the grace of God preached to and received by him, he, a man, the equal at bottom of his master and of that master's master, the august Caesar,—he could be ranked as a son of God, without any super-added badge of inferiority, as much a son of God as Paul himself. There is a most touching, most beautiful exemplification of this in Paul's brief Epistle to Philemon. Paul takes as much interest in Onesimus, a runaway slave, converted by him at Rome, as though he had been a noble born. He calls him his very heart, and, more than a servant, even a brother beloved to Philemon, both in the flesh and in the Lord. The gap between men in respect of social standing, between the sovereign and the common subject of the realm, between the nobleman and the peasant, between the rich and the poor, between master and servant, sometimes so impresses us that we do not think of their being equal at all, they seem beings of a different order; but in Christ there is no difference; there is a great absolute equality before God, who is no respecter of persons, and the man with a Christian heart under a rough exterior is full brother to the Christian gentleman, and the servant-girl who loves her Bible is of as much account as her Christian mistress. Paul says to slaves, wanting to be set free, "For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman; likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant." It has been made out of this, not that there are no conditions in Christ, but, what also puts us on an equality, that all conditions are possessed in Christ. "If a man is a slave, he may be free in Christ. If free, he may have the joy of utter submission to an absolute master in Christ. If you and I are lonely, we may feel all the delights of society by union with him. If surrounded and distracted by companionship, and seeking for seclusion, we may get all the peace of perfect privacy in fellowship with him. If we are rich, and sometimes think that we were in a position of less temptation if we were poorer, we may find all the blessings for which we sometimes crave poverty in communion with him. If we are poor, and fancy that if we had a little more, just to lift us above the grinding, carking care of to-day, and the anxiety of to-morrow, we should be happier, we may find all tranquillity in him." "There can be no male and female." This distinction in sex has more foundation in nature than the distinction of men by nationality or by their social standing. "Male and female created he them." In the resurrection, the distinction, in its physical aspect, will have no place; but now it reigns, and forms an agreeable contrast in humanity. But it also disappears in the lower ground of a common sonship. There is daughterhood spoken of in that passage," Ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty;" but generally it is a filial standing, without any distinction of sex, that is indicated. "And, after all, women are men. Their relation with God is an immediate one. They stand in exactly the same position with regard to him as man; and, in this supreme point of view, the equality of the sexes is perfect, as is that between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak. The two sexes are only the two forms, or two functions, of our common humanity, the members of which are all called to serve and glorify God, some as men, others as women. The service of God is the substance, the rest is only the mode or the accident. Now, we fully believe that God has made the woman for the man, in that he has dualized man, for whom it was not good to be alone, and who would have been alone in a moral sense, and in that sense more especially, with a being exactly similar and perfectly equal to himself; but we cannot, we must not, imagine that the whole feminine sex has been called out of nothingness into being, merely to complete the existence of individuals of the other sex. The proposition, "the woman was made for the man," has, therefore, for counterpoise and complement, another proposition—the woman has been created for herself, or, better still, "man and woman both have been created for God." Inferences. We are to rejoice most in that wherein we are equal. It is not external advantages or points of superiority over others that can afford any man the deepest, purest joy. If he is vain of these, and allows them prevalence in his thoughts, he will certainly forfeit his joy. When the seventy returned from their missionary tour, they were flushed with the joy of a new-found power over devils: "Lord, even the devils are subject unto us, through thy Name." Christ directed them to the true source of joy: "Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you, but rather rejoice that your names are written in heaven." That God numbers us among his children—that is the humble, equalizing element in our joy. It is not implied that inequalities are to be repudiated. There are inequalities in the providence of God, mainly for purposes of trial; and we are not to find fault with them. "Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God." The instance in point was the converted slave, who, when he came to the knowledge of Christ, was not to go away and demand a change of condition; but if it was the will of God that he should still remain in slavery, he was to abide therein with God, content to enjoy that freedom with which Christ had made him free. The same consideration might lead a man not to shirk, like Jonah, but to take a very high position, for which, perhaps, he had no natural liking, bat to which he felt that he was called by a higher will. But, whatever the position intended for us, we are to accept of it as an expression of the will of God; and, if we see the same will in the stations which others occupy, that will keep us right in the midst of inequalities. It has been remarked "that a great part of the duties of life are based, and must be, on the fact that men are unequal; some inferior, some superior; some elected to power and leadership, and some to homage and trust. Everything here will depend on how much of personal quality and soul-force different men may have for their endowments; how much reason, conscience, love, will, vision, music, science, and worship they have room for; and then it will be seen what precedences they are to yield, what deferences to pay, or what patronages to assume, what forward conditions to support. Thus far the true beauty of life will consist in a due observance of inequalities; every man consenting to be himself, and let everybody else be himself too, in his own true measure." There are duties founded upon our equality as Christians. "Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily, I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward." One might perform the same little act from considerations of humanity, but it is the performing it from considerations of discipleship that receives the commendation of Christ. There is a whole tier of virtues rising up here, for which there is required the greatest delicacy, and which are really of the finest mould. They are such as will be suggested by the names, Christian courtesy, Christian consideration, and the like. Here is culture, accomplishment, for any Christian lady or Christian gentleman. There have none of us learned enough to show consideration all round the Christian circle because of sonship and equality in Christ. Some have a long, hard lesson to learn here, who, perhaps, little imagine it. The inequalities of Providence form their peculiar temptation. They naturally like to associate with persons of their own tastes and manners, and, perhaps, they are so accustomed to regard men because they are rich, because they are influential, that they cannot bring their minds to respect a man simply because he is a Christian. Now, how becoming it is that those who are unequally placed in providence should meet freely together on the ground of an equality in the Divine covenant! It would let the rich feel more potently that wealth and station and culture are on the outside; and it would let the poor see that honesty and piety are not confined to them. Whatever opportunities for meeting may be enjoyed in the common walks of life, there is a special meeting-ground afforded for all classes in the Church. Here the rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the Maker of them all. The Church is the place where most of all we should be helped to understand and to feel the levelling influence of Christian love, and to value and to honour the Christian under all distinctions. There is an equalizing process going on under Christian influences. If we take the Jew and the Greek as bringing before us national distinctions, there is better feeling between nations than there once was. A Christian in a nation sees and feels that in Christ all nations are one, that there is a common salvation for them, and that the loss of one is really the loss of all. If there is a considerable body of Christians in each nation, especially known, in some degree, to one another, that will be the strongest counteractive to hostile feeling; and it will only be in seasons of great national excitement that these will be borne down, and, perhaps, themselves carried away, by the national impulse. Certainly, in calm moments there is a growing conviction that the true and best condition to be sought after is that which Christianity puts before us, and gives us reason to hope for—a brotherhood of nations, free from selfishness and intrigue, in which nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. The second distinction between bond and free in that particular form is very nearly obliterated. Although Christianity did not preach revolution, did not incite to a rising of the slaves against their masters, yet it has led indirectly to the abolition of slavery. When it represented even slaves as some of them invested with the privileges of sonship in Christ, in the logic of events the conclusion was sure to follow, that their rights as men could not justly be withheld from them. The poor African race has been the last to know the elevating, equalizing power of Christianity; and some think that they may be gradually matured to be the equals of Europeans in civilization, having great capacities of vision, of song, and of worship. There will be an equalizing even in that which communists have an eye to—material condition. Only this is to be got at, not by any flashy communistic scheme, but by Christianity having more the moulding of the conditions of trade and commerce, and also more the moulding of the individual character. The last distinction between male and female has been materially changed by Christianity. Her equality before God was a lever power which could not but raise woman out of that degradation into which man's sin had brought her. We see the process going on in India which has taken place in many nations, zenana agencies especially spreading influences which must eventually liberate. The most real inequality is that which is produced by sin. If we are equal in sonship, let us also be equal in fidelity.
(3) Ground of our Christian equality. "For ye all are one man in Christ Jesus. And if ye are Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise." It has already been implied that we are equal because of our sonship in Christ. That it may be placed beyond doubt, it is explicitly stated that we are equal because of what we are in Christ. And we are in Christ in such a way that, because he is Abraham's seed, we are Abraham's seed too. And, as Abraham's seed, we are heirs according to the tenor of the promise. This heirship he proceeds to connect with sonship. So that the teaching is that our equality is based on our sonship in Christ.—R.F.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
Here, it is said, the doctrinal section of the Epistle begins,
St. Paul's allusion implies that the Galatians had been persecuted—as we know other Churches had been—at the instigation of the Jews. If the Jewish Law were the highest method of righteousness, persecution provoked by slighting or opposing it must have been endured for nothing. This was an argumentum ad hominem. We have to make sacrifices in other ways if we are faithful to spiritual religion. We are also appealed to by the memories of our fathers, who testified to spiritual liberty at the rack and the stake. When we play with the broken chains which they cast off, and even forge them afresh by submitting to the revival of old formalities and superstitions, the spirits of those martyred heroes of Protestantism rise up to rebuke us. Or does the most noble page of England's history describe only a huge, quixotic delusion?
III. THIS COURSE CONTRADICTS THE EVIDENCE AFFORDED BY THE POWER THAT FLOWS FROM SPIRITUAL GRACE. (Verse 5.) St. Paul and other men endued with the Spirit wrought miracles. The most rigid follower of the Law could not do so. But more than power over material things grew out of the grace of the Spirit. The conquests of the gospel flowed from faith and spiritual gifts. The men of formal devotion never turned the world upside down. There is no fire in Law, The new creation of the world only follows spiritual activity. It is the work of the men of faith. "By their fruits ye shall know them." Whatever fascination there may be in religions of strict rules and rigid ordinances, we find that it is the free spiritual energy of unfettered souls that moves the hearts of others. This religion of faith and grace which possesses the most Divine power must be for us the highest and best.—W.F.A.
The faith and blessing of Abraham.
Not only, says the apostle, did you begin the Christian life in faith, but even Abraham, whom the Jews reverence as their great exemplar, and whose heir they profess to be, even he was justified by faith; and therefore they who enjoy his blessing are the possessors of the same faith.
I. ABRAHAM WAS A MAN OF FAITH. He knew nothing of the Levitical Law. He walked by faith. His faith was not assent to a creed. Nor was it an intelligent conviction of any "plan of salvation" obtained by means of a miraculous foresight of the atonement to be accomplished many centuries later in the sacrifice of Christ. It was a grand, simple trust in God. It was shown in his forsaking the idols of his forefathers and worshipping the one spiritual God, in his leaving his home and going he knew not whither in obedience to a Divine voice, in his willingness to sacrifice his son, in his hope of a future inheritance. Such a faith is personal reliance, leading to active obedience and encouraged by confident anticipation. Abraham's faith is the model faith for us. For us faith is to rely upon Christ, to be loyal to Christ, to hope in Christ, and also to accept the fuller revelations of truth which Christ opens up to us as Abraham accepted the Divine voices vouchsafed to him. For the contents of faith will vary according to our light, The spirit of it, however, must be always the same.
II. ABRAHAM'S FAITH WAS RECKONED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS. The special point in Abraham's character was not his holiness, but his faith. God's favour flowed to him through this channel. It was the way through which he, though imperfect and sinful, as are all the sons of Adam, was called to the privileged place of a righteous man. This is recorded of him in the sacred history (Genesis 15:6), and therefore should be admitted by all Jews. So much for St. Paul's special argument. For us the important lesson is that, if so famous a saint, living even under the older religion, was accepted through faith, how much more apparent is it that faith is necessary for us! The reasons for relying on faith are
(1) historical—faith justified Abraham, therefore it will justify us;
(2) theological—faith brings us into living fellowship with God, and so opens our hearts to receive the forgiveness that puts us in the position of righteous men; and
(3) moral—faith is the security for the future growth of righteousness, with the first effort of faith the first seed-grace of righteousness is sown.
III. PARTICIPATION IN ABRAHAM'S FAITH IS THE CONDITION OF PARTICIPATION IN ABRAHAM'S BLESSING. Jews claimed the blessing by birthright. Jewish Christians offered it to the Gentiles on condition of their becoming as Jews. Both were wrong. Abraham received his blessing through his faith. It was necessarily conditioned by faith. Only men of faith could have it. Therefore Jews who lost faith lost the blessing. But all men of faith are spiritual sons of Abraham. Therefore all nations are blessed in Abraham just in proportion as they have a similar faith. Indeed, the finest legacy left by the patriarch was his faith. Canaan came and went. Spiritual blessings such as faith includes are eternal.—W.F.A.
The curse of the Law and the curse of the cross.
I. THE LAW BRINGS A CURSE. It is not itself a curse, though it is a heavy burden. It was not sent for the purpose of injuring us, nor, rightly obeyed, would it cause any evil to fall upon us. It is the breach of the Law that is followed by the curse. But we have all broken the Law. So long, then, as we continue to live under the Law the curse hangs over us. Instead of hankering after a religion of Law, as the Galatians were doing, we should regard it with horror as for us sinners only a prelude to a fearful doom. The curse is the wrath of God, banishment from God, death.
II. CHRIST REDEEMS FROM THIS CURSE. This great truth implies three things.
1. Christians are set free from the curse of the Law,
(1) by the free forgiveness that stays the curse from falling on those who have incurred it in transgressing the Law; and
(2) by removal from the dominion of Law for the future, so that its requirements no longer apply, and principles of love resulting from grace have full sway. Obligations to righteousness are not thereby diminished, but increased; the motive for fulfilling them, however, is no longer the terror of a curse, but the spontaneous devotion of love.
2. This liberation is effected by Christ. We cannot fling off the yoke of Law nor dispel the curse. If done at all it must be done by One mightier than us. Hence the need of a Saviour. The gospel proclaims, not only deliverance, but a Christ who accomplishes it.
3. The deliverance is at a cost. It is redemption. The cost is Christ's endurance of a curse.
III. CHRIST SUFFERED THE CURSE OF THE CROSS. He was not cursed of God. It is significant that that expression is omitted in the quotation from the Old Testament (see Deuteronomy 21:23). We have no evidence of any mysterious spiritual curse falling upon Christ. On the contrary, we are told in what the curse consisted. It was the endurance of crucifixion itself. That was a death so cruel, so horrible, so full of shame, that to suffer it was to undergo a very curse. Christ was crucified, and therefore the curse fell upon him. Moreover, this curse is very directly connected with the breach of the Law by us.
1. Death is the penalty of transgression. Christ never deserved this penalty of violated Law, yet, being a man and mortal, he suffered the fate of fallen men.
2. It was man's wickedness, i.e. nothing else than man's violation of God's Law, that led to man's rejection of Christ and to Christ's death. The world flung its curse on Christ. By a wonderful act of infinite mercy that act of hellish wickedness is made the means through which the world is freed from the curse of its own sins.
IV. CHRIST'S ENDURANCE OF THE CURSE OF THE CROSS LIBERATES US FROM THE CURSE OF THE LAW. He freely endured the curse. He endured it for our sakes. He became "a curse for us."
1. His endurance of the curse gave weight to his propitiatory sacrifice of himself. This was the most extreme surrender of himself to God in meek submission. As our Representative, he thus obtained for us Divine favour and grace of forgiveness in answer to that most powerful intercession, the giving of himself to a death that was a very curse rather than abandon his saving work.
2. Christ's endurance of the curse for us is the grand inducement for us to leave the "beggarly elements" of Law and devote ourselves in faith and love to him who died fur us.—W.F.A.
The everlasting covenant.
I. DIVINE GRACE IS PLEDGED BY COVENANT. The grace here referred to is offered to Abraham and through him to all nations (Genesis 12:1-3). Thus offered in covenant, it is
(1) definitely promised by God,
(2) with the confirmation of an oath,
(3) on condition, however, of our faith.
We are not left to speculate about the grace of God as a possibility; it is distinctly revealed. Nor are we in doubt as to its permanence; it is pledged for the future.
II. THE COVENANT OF DIVINE GRACE IS ETERNAL.
1. As a revelation of truth it is eternal. Truth does not vary with time. When once a genuine truth has been seen, no later knowledge of another truth can set it aside. The discovery of Australia did not invalidate the earlier discovery of America.
2. As a declaration of God's will it is eternal. God does not vacillate, like a fickle, capricious despot. He is constancy itself. What he wills now he wills for ever.
3. As a pledge of God's honour it is eternal. It is in infinite condescension to our weakness that God makes us a promise. We ought to be able to rely on his love and goodness alone. But since he has mercifully stooped to encourage us in our poor faith by promise and pledge, herein lies the greater assurance to us of his changeless grace.
III. THE COVENANT OF GRACE IS MORE ANCIENT THAN THE CURSE OF THE LAW. The Judaizers claim precedence for the Law over the gospel because of its greater antiquity. But St. Paul reminds them that the promise on which the gospel is founded is a still more ancient Divine word. Grace precedes wrath; love is anterior to Law. The first vision of God is a revelation of loving-kindness. The weight and dignity of hoary age are with the blessings of God's goodness. A shallow research discovers Law; dig deeper, penetrate further, and you find love.
IV. LATER DIVINE UTTERANCES MAY OBSCURE BUT CANNOT ABOLISH THE COVENANT OF GRACE.
1. They may obscure it. The severity of the Law appeared to hide the gracious promise to Abraham. Dark dispensations of Providence sometimes come between us and God's love. We cannot reconcile the harder with the more pleasing utterances of Scripture. Stern voices sometimes repel us when we are hungering for gentle voices to comfort.
2. Nevertheless, these later revelations do not nullify the earlier promises. The grace is still undiminished, though for a time it is beyond our gaze and grasp. Presently it will break out in more than its pristine splendour, as the sun shines more brightly than ever after it has been hidden by a brief summer shower. The purpose of grace both precedes and outlives the threatenings of Law. The thunders of Sinai are but an interlude between the promise of love at Bethel and its fulfilment at Bethlehem.—W.F.A.
The object of the Law.
The Law, we are told, was "added because of transgressions." This cannot mean that it was instituted to restrain transgressions—the normal object of Law—since that assertion would be opposed to the main drift of the apostle's argument; nor can it signify simply that the Law was added to reveal transgressions, or this would be more directly stated; nor certainly can it mean that the Law was intended to produce transgressions, to serve as an instrument of sin—a purpose which would be more diabolical than Divine. Probably St. Paul's meaning is that the Law was intended to convert sins into transgressions; i.e, to give to amorphous and almost unconscious wickedness a definite form, so that it could be seen, handled, chastised, and cured (Romans 7:8, Romans 7:9).
I. SIN IS NATURALLY OBSCURE. It spreads through the soul as a rank malaria, felt in its evil effects, but not clearly seen and known. We feel ourselves to be ailing, but cannot lay our fingers upon the seat of the disease. Just in proportion to its internal character it is dangerous; yet in the same proportion it is vague and beyond our reach. It is darkness and death—things vast, shapeless, without definition, mere blank negations. Nothing is more erratic than an unenlightened conscience. A spiritually ignorant person cannot tell when he sins or how far his guilt extends. He is like a blind man groping among pathless wilds, stumbling and falling he knows not how or where.
II. LAW CONVERTS VAGUE SIN INTO DEFINITE TRANSGRESSION. It does not simply reveal the hidden sin, as the acid develops the photograph and as the daylight lays bare the ugly ruin. It gives to sin a new form and character, as the chemical re-agent precipitates a solution. It compels the diffused sinfulness to crystallize into sharply defined offences, The force of the tide is not seen till the wave breaks against the shore. The current of evil is strong, but unrecognized, till it meets a Law and dashes over it in wild assault. Sin lurks in our hearts and creeps through our lives as a formless spirit of evil. Then a Law is declared, "Thou shalt not steal," or, "Thou shalt not kill." Sin meeting this directly breaks the Law. Now, it is a clear offence, a definite, chargeable transgression, capable of being brought home to the criminal.
III. THIS CONVERSION OF SIN INTO TRANSGRESSION IS FOR OUR ULTIMATE GOOD. At first it looks cruel, if not immoral. It seems like God tempting us. But God does not send the inducement to sin. He only sends the forbidding Law, which gives form to the sin already present.
1. Thus Law becomes an external conscience. By means of it we know how far we have fallen.
2. It becomes an occasion for the Divine chastisement which we need in order to be brought to repentance.
3. It prepares us to receive the gospel by rousing us from the slumber of indifference, making us see how evil and how helpless we are, and so urging us to seek redemption from the curse of Law in the grace of Christ.—W.F.A.
Direct communication with God.
The mediator here referred to is not Christ, but Moses, for St. Paul is describing the process through which the Law was given. This he contrasts with the direct flow of grace in the gospel. A mediator implies more than one party, and the gifts that come through mediation do not come immediately from the hand of the giver. But God is one person, and in Christ he immediately confers his grace upon us.
I. A RELIGION OF LAW SEPARATES US FROM DIRECT COMMUNION WITH GOD. The Levitical Law depended on an elaborate system of mediation. The Jew regarded it as given through angels. Moses received it for the people. When the Israelites saw the terrors of Sinai they shrank back and begged Moses to go alone for them into the presence of God, and thus they received the Divine message through their human leader (Exodus 20:18, Exodus 20:19). Subsequently it was administered through the priesthood. The consequence was that the people were not admitted to the sanctuary. The penalty of relying on a human intercessor out of fear of God was separation from direct communion with Heaven. This penalty is still paid by those who pursue the same course. The magnifying of human priesthood and the elaboration of ceremonial religion by one school in the Church, and the over-dependence on human teaching and preaching of another school, put new mediators between us and God, and so separate us from the privileges of immediate Divine fellowship. The same result follows the slavish observance of rules and regulations laid down by the wisest and holiest of teachers. Those men come between us and God.
II. THE HIGHEST RELIGION CONSISTS IN DIRECT COMMUNION WITH GOD, "God is one." When he speaks to us we have all that we need. Many advantages belong to this pure and lofty relation with God.
1. Clear visions of truth. Truth is no longer adulterated with human imaginations.
2. The full efficacy of grace. This is not weakened by the harsh and ugly additions of man's blundering attempts to improve his fellow-man. It flows clear and full in its own heavenly beauty.
3. The blessedness of fellowship with God. A religion of Law is irksome. There is no joy in obedience forced by constraint. But direct communion with God is itself the source of the deepest joy, and it makes all service glad, so that we delight to do the will of God.
III. THE GOSPEL BRINGS TO US THIS RELIGION OF DIRECT COMMUNION. It is true that Christ is a Mediator, but in quite another way from the mediation of Moses. Moses and all human mediators stand between us and God, so as to separate us from him and darken the vision of his glory by their human shadows. But Christ only comes between to bridge over the gulf that separates, to unite us to God, to be the mirror in which the presence of God is revealed; nay, to bring God to us, made manifest in the flesh. Thus in Christ we have immediate communication with God. Through him we not only know that God is spirit and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth, we also have grace thus to worship. In Christ God's grace directly flows to us with all its fresh, untainted purity and power. In Christ we have grace to enter through the rout veil to the holiest place, and to rest in the eternal light of God's near presence.—W.F.A.
Galatians 3:24, Galatians 3:25
The image of the Law as a tutor would apply directly to the condition of the Jews, to whom the Levitical system was given in their religious childhood in order to prepare them for the privileges of sonship which Christ was to confer. But what was true of them is more or less true of all of us. For the religious history of Israel is just an emphasized epitome of the religious history of the race. Through longer ages, by more obscure methods, in spite of more grievous lapses, God is educating mankind as he educated the Jews. Though in their case the process was hastened by the tropical heat of prophetic inspiration, and the results are portrayed in the clear light of a Scripture revelation, the method is still essentially the same. Law comes first and serves as the tutor till the gospel of Christ brings the liberty of manhood. Individually we pass through a similar education. The function of Law is here described. Law is a tutor.
I. THE TUTOR RESTRAINS AND CONTROLS HIS PUPIL, The tutor or poedagogos was not so much the teacher as the person to whom was entrusted the charge of the whole moral direction of the child. He had an almost absolute authority, such as English lads with the greater freedom allowed among us would resent as a galling yoke. A similar function pertained to the Jewish Law, and pertains to all law in so far as it comes into practical relations with our religious life. In particular note three characteristics common to the control of the tutor over his charge and the dominion of a religion of Law.
1. Rigid orders. The tutor would leave little to the discretion of his pupil, nor would he be likely to explain the reason for his mandates. So Law requires definite actions and affords little scope for the intelligent consideration of general principles and none for freedom of action upon them.
2. Compulsion. The tutor commands. He does not spare the rod. Law depends on threats and fear of punishment, or on hopes of reward, or at best on a stern sense of necessary obligation, and not on love and willing acquiescence.
3. Restraints. Probably the old tutor would check and repress rather than guide, encourage, and develop the natural disposition of his pupil Law says, "Thou shalt not," with more emphasis than "Thou shalt."
II. THE TUTOR IS SUITED TO THE PERIOD OF CHILDHOOD. Much that entered into the stern old system of discipline was as unfitted to youth as to manhood, and we are beginning to see the advantages of a freer kind of education. Nevertheless, certain restraints are essential to the condition of childhood, and the relaxing of them must be most disastrous. The duty of implicit obedience must be learnt before it is possible to understand the principles of abstract morality. Conscience must be educated by Law. In the infancy of the race the pure spirituality of Christianity could not be perceived, and a lower, narrower religion was all that came within the grasp of men. There is a law enclosed within the gospel, and those who are spiritually too backward to say, "The love of Christ constraineth me," are reminded that "whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap."
III. THE TUTOR PREPARES FOR THE TIME or MANHOOD. If he does his work welt he does not convert his pupil into a slave. By teaching the habit of obedience he prepares for a willing acquiescence in a higher will; by inculcating a certain course of action he lays the foundation for a character in harmony with it. This preparatory influence in education admits of wide application; e.g. the boy must first master the rules of arithmetic in order that he may subsequently comprehend the principles of mathematics, must take grammar as an introduction to philology, etc. Thus St. Paul gives no excuse for the Marcionite heresy, which rejects the Old Testament religion as a had thing. He not only allows it to be good in its way, but the only thing possible in its time and a direct preparation for the later and freer religion. There is a continuity in history, there is a continuity in God's providential control of history, and there is a continuity in the growing stream of grace that flows through history. Christianity stands on the foundation of Judaism. The Old Testament is useful in preparing us for Christ. Nevertheless, it must not be forgotten that part of this efficacy is negative. The very failure of the Law and its increasing irksomeness prepare for Christ by making us feel the need and enjoy the liberty of his grace.
IV. THE TUTOR IS DISMISSED WHEN THE TIME OF MANHOOD ARRIVES. The tutor who was useful to the child will be a hindrance to the grown man. The submission which was dutiful in childhood becomes servile in manhood. The yoke of the Law is not the less a nuisance to the Christian because it was a necessity for the Jew. There is great skill in the apostle's argument, for, while showing that he was no enemy to the Law but appreciated its utility, he pointed out that that very utility involved its being superseded. Its purpose was important, but preparatory, to prepare for the gospel. The blossom must fall that the fruit may develop.—W.F.A.
Liberated from the tutelage of Law through faith and on account of his union with Christ, the Christian is exalted into the condition of a free son of God and enjoys the large privileges of sonship.
I. THE CONDITION OF SONSHIP. God is the Father of all mankind, and all human creatures, even the most ignorant, the most degraded, and the most vicious are naturally God's children. The prodigal son is still a son and can think of "my father." Nevertheless, it is clear that St. Paul often speaks of a sonship that does not belong to all men—a sonship which is the Christian's peculiar condition and is not even shared. by the Jew, a sonship which is not enjoyed by natural birth, but must be received by adoption, i.e. by a special act of Divine grace. What does this mean?
1. Near relationship with God. The son is most closely related to his father. But the disobedient child who forsakes his home is practically dead, for him practically the old relation is severed. It needs to be restored if he is to enjoy it again. The son, too, with St. Paul is not the young child in the nursery, but the older child admitted into the society of his father. The Jew was kept in the nursery separated from God by a "mediator" (Galatians 3:19) and a "tutor" (Galatians 3:24). The Christian is admitted into close fellowship with God.
2. Liberty. This is an idea always associated with St. Paul's description of sonship. The son is no longer the child "under guardians and stewards," who "differeth nothing from a bond-servant." He is a free man enjoying the confidence of his father. Such are Christians; to them the mind and will of God are revealed; they are free from restraints of formal Law; they are put in positions of trust.
II. THE ORIGIN OF SONSHIP.
1. Through rattle. This is an important point in the apostle's argument. So long as we have not faith we remain in tutelage and at a distance from God. Faith breaks the yoke and brings us into the presence of God. Faith teaches us to realize that God is our Father and to trust him fearlessly, and so to take the position of sons.
2. By union with Christ. Christ is the Son of God. Yet he is not desirous of keeping his privileges to himself. On the contrary, he laboured and suffered that his people might share them. The baptized, that is to say, all of the Galatian people who accepted Christianity as a religion, had happily gone further and really entered into the spirit of it. They had since backslidden, but they were no hypocrites. Living Christianity is "putting on Christ," being clothed with the spirit of Christ. They who do this through faith in Christ become one with him, and, as his brethren, become sons of his Father.
III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF SONSHIP.
1. Universal brotherhood. We are all one "in Christ Jesus." Here is the secret. The fraternity that sprang from the mere enthusiasm of philosophic philanthropy led to the guillotine. It is only union in Christ that secures true lasting union among men. As all colours melt into one common brilliancy under the rays of a very strong light, all distinctions vanish when Christ's presence is deeply felt.
(1) National distinctions vanish. The old antagonism of Jew and Gentile disappears. Christianity now tends to blend nations.
(2) Social distinctions vanish. Slaves are free in Christ. Free men are servants to Christ. The gospel is the enemy of all caste-feeling.
(3) Even distinctions of sex count for nothing. This meant much in ancient times, when cruel injustice was done to women. Women are under eternal obligations to the gospel, which has freed them from an unworthy bondage and given them their true place in the world.
2. The inheritance of ancient promises. The son of a king is an heir. What shall be the inheritance of a Son of God? To him it is said, "All things are yours." The Jew cherished the promises as a hope. The Christian enjoys the fulfilment of the promises. As yet the fulfilment is but partial, though enough to be an earnest of better things to come for those sons of God who are being made "meet for the inheritance of the saints in light."—W.F.A.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Galatians 3". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent