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Bible Commentaries

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Galatians 3

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-29

II. CONTRASTS BETWEEN LAW AND GRACE

CHAPTER 3

1. The gift of the Spirit not by the works of the law, but by hearing of faith. (Galatians 3:1-5)

2. Righteousness not bestowed by the law, but by faith. (Galatians 3:6-9)

3. The law curses; the curse born by Christ. (Galatians 3:10-14)

4. The law cannot annul the covenant of promise, (Galatians 3:15-18)

5. Wherefore serveth the law? (Galatians 3:19-22)

6. Faith having come--no longer under the law, (Galatians 3:23-25)

7. Sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus, (Galatians 3:26-29)

What the law could not do and what grace has done for the believer in Christ is now unfolded. Paul addresses them as foolish, and asks, “Who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth?” Who was responsible for the awful error they were following so destructive to the whole truth of the gospel? It was the witchery of Satan; as he tells them later, “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of Him that calleth you” (Galatians 5:7-8). As Christians, they possessed the Holy Spirit, as all true Christians receive Him and are sealed by the Spirit. They also enjoyed the ministry of the Spirit through the different gifts. And now he asks the question “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” There is no promise in the law that if it is kept in obedience, that God would send His Spirit to the heart of man to be the indwelling guest and make the obedient keeper of the law the temple of the Holy Spirit. The law does not promise even the Spirit. In Ezekiel 36:27 the promise is made, “I will put My Spirit within you”, but, as the context shows, this promise refers to the future when the remnant of Israel will turn to the Lord and the promised spiritual and national blessings are given to them through grace. The Galatians knew nothing of the law and were not under the law, for they were, by nature, idolaters. They had received the Spirit by hearing of faith. Before this great gift could ever be bestowed the Son of God had to die on the cross and be glorified (John 7:39). And all who receive the Lord Jesus Christ by faith, also receive the great gift of grace, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Sonship. They had received the Holy Spirit by simply believing. They were sealed by that Spirit and knew thereby that they were redeemed and the sons of God. If they possessed this seal of divine righteousness why should they add to it the works of the law? They acted, indeed, foolishly.

(Strange, unscriptural doctrines concerning the Holy Spirit are taught in different sects and parties. Some teach that the Christian should earnestly seek this gift, and the baptism with the Spirit. They claim that each individual must make a definite experience of receiving the baptism with the Spirit. This seeking includes, what they term, a full surrender, etc., and after enough seeking, surrender, giving up and praying, they claim to have received the power of the Holy Spirit. The argument here refutes this teaching. The Holy Spirit is given to every believer in Christ.)

The second argument is concerning righteousness. These false teachers made much of Abraham and the Jews honored him as the father of the nation. How did he obtain righteousness? It was not by the works of the law, for there was no law and no ordinances. “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness.” He believed and grace imputed this to him for righteousness.

This took place before his circumcision. “How was it, then, reckoned? When he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had, being yet uncircumcised; that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also” (Romans 4:10-13). Thus, righteousness is apart from the law and circumcision has nothing whatever to do with salvation; neither has baptism or any other ordinance. These Judaizing teachers and perverters of the gospel probably told the Galatians about being linked with Abraham and the privilege of being the children of Abraham. Paul writes them that, as believers, they are without the works of the law and circumcision, the children of Abraham. “Know ye, therefore, that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” And the Scriptures, the Word of God, had anticipated this. The Word of God foresaw that, ultimately, in God’s gracious purpose, the Gentiles were to be justified by faith. The Word of God had, so to speak, preached the gospel unto Abraham, the very gospel Paul was heralding among the Gentiles. This gospel-message, preached by the Scriptures, is the announcement, “In thee shall all nations be blessed.” The logical conclusion, therefore, is “they which be of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.”

The law cannot give righteousness, but it gives man something and that is the curse. “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse, for it is written, cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” The law demands obedience, but it has no power to give a nature which delights in the law to keep it, nor can it bestow the power to fulfill its demands. Nothing can the law give to the sinner, but the curse. (See quotation from Deuteronomy 27:11-26. Six tribes were put on Mt. Gerizim to bless and six upon Mt. Ebal to curse. The six tribes on Gerizim were silent; they could utter no blessing, for the law cannot bless. But the tribes on Mt. Ebal uttered twelve times the word “Cursed.” This is what the law does.)

But grace had also stated the faith principle in the Old Testament. “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, is manifest, for the just shall live by faith.” But redemption has come. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, for it is written “Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.” If a believer then goes back to the law and puts himself under that law, tries to live by it, he puts himself under the curse. He slights the precious work of Christ, who took the curse upon Himself, so that it can no longer fall upon us. And the result of Christ having removed the curse of the law is that the blessing of Abraham might be extended to the Gentiles through Him, so that all believers, both Jews and Gentiles, should receive the promised Spirit.

In Galatians 3:15-18, the priority of the grace-covenant is shown and that the law-covenant which came 430 years after cannot disannul the former covenant nor make the promise of none effect. If a covenant is made and confirmed, it cannot be rightly disannulled nor can anything be added to the same. The promises were made to Abraham; they were unconditional promises with no “if” attached to them, grace is the foundation of them. These promises were, afterward, confirmed to his seed. And that one seed (not seeds) is Christ. Isaac was a type of Him. And the original promise that all nations should be blessed in Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) had been confirmed after the promised seed, Isaac, had been upon the altar (Genesis 22:18). Isaac, upon the altar and taken from the altar, was a type of Christ, His death and resurrection (Hebrews 11:19). The law-covenant can, therefore, not disannul the promise nor add to it. If the inheritance is of the law, it is no more of promise, but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

If, then, the law cannot give the Spirit of God, if it cannot give righteousness, if the law has no blessing for man, but pronounces a curse upon him, if it cannot, in any way, affect the original grace-covenant made with Abraham, confirmed in Isaac, then the logical question which follows is “Why did God give the law?”--”Wherefore, then, serveth the law?” (Galatians 3:19). The answer is “It was added because of transgressions.” It was added not that sin might be curbed, or man might be saved by it, but that man might be constituted a transgressor and his hopeless and guilty condition fully demonstrated. It was introduced as a parenthetical thing, between the original promise and its fulfillment in Christ, in order that the moral condition of man might be manifested. (See also Romans 3:20; Romans 5:13; Romans 5:20; Romans 7:7-9.) Therefore, it was a mere addition “till the seed (Christ) should come, to whom the promise was made.” And the law was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. “Now, a mediator is not of one; but God is one.” Angels in glory were present at Sinai (Psalms 68:17); God did not reveal Himself in His glory and a mediator was needed, that is, Moses. The statement “a mediator is not of one” means that mediatorship necessitates two parties. So there were God and Israel, Moses between as the mediator. But in the promise, the covenant made with Abraham and his seed, God was the only One who spoke. Its fulfillment is not (as in the law-covenant) dependent upon a faithful God and Israel’s obedience, but on God’s faithfulness alone; all depended upon God Himself. The mediatorship of the Lord Jesus Christ is a different thing and not in view here at all. But the law is not against the promises of God. Man needed life; the law could not give that, neither can it give righteousness. All--Jews and Gentiles--were shut up under sin, so that the promise made to Abraham might be fulfilled to all believers through faith in Jesus Christ.

“Before faith came--that is, before Christ had died and faith, as the great principle for the fullest blessing, had been made known--we, the Jews, were kept under the law, shut up to the faith which should, afterwards, be revealed.” The Apostle writes of the condition of the Jews before the cross of Christ and before the faith in Him was fully revealed. Therefore, the law was their schoolmaster unto Christ, that they might be justified by faith. The law was, for the Jews, a pedagogue, just as a pedagogue in a Greek household had charge of the children during their minority. The authorized version, “the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ,” is not correct. Upon this the statement is often made that the law is like a whip to bring us to accept Christ. But that is not the meaning. The law was the schoolmaster for the Jews unto Christ, until Christ came--the schoolmaster up to the time of Christ. Galatians 3:25 makes this clear. “But after that faith is come”--faith being fully made known after the finished work of Christ and preached in the Gospel--”we are no longer under the schoolmaster.” A great change has come since the faith has been made known through the gospel. Not alone are believers no longer under the schoolmaster, but they are Sons of God. “For ye are all the sons of God by faith in Jesus Christ.” Life and righteousness, the life from above and the righteousness of God are needed for divine sonship. The law cannot give life and righteousness, but grace bestows both on the believer and makes him a son of God. Being baptized unto Christ, they had put on Christ and had assumed in profession the name of Christ; a new place given to all, “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Inasmuch as they were Christ’s, heirs of the promise, they could not be under the law. “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Galatians 3:4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gab/galatians-3.html. 1913-1922.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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