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Bible Commentaries

James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary
Galatians 3

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-31

JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH

Having established his authority as an apostle, and his right to expound the Gospel he had received, Paul now enters upon the elucidation of the latter, or rather proceeds to the defense of its cardinal teaching. This is the doctrine that man is justified only by faith in Jesus Christ without the works of the law. The same doctrine was enlarged upon in Romans, only there he was expressing the Divine side of its truth while here he is showing the human side. There he taught that God justified man by giving him a righteous or righteousness that satisfied His justice, here he teaches that man receives this blessing simply by believing on Jesus Christ. The false teachers had denied this and had led some of the Galatians back to the law of Moses both as (in part at least), the ground of their justification and the means of their perfection in holiness. Paul shows the untruthfulness and futility of this in the following way:

1. By their own experience of the effects of faith in the Gospel (Galatians 3:1-5) 2. By the history of Abraham the founder of the Jewish Nation (Galatians 3:6-9) 3. By the teachings of Old Testament Scriptures (Galatians 3:10-12) 4. By the nature of the work of Christ (Galatians 3:13-14) The first might be called the argumentum ad hominem. It was evident to these Galatian Christians that they had received the Holy Spirit. But how had they come to receive Him, through observing the Mosaic law or the preaching of the Gospel? The answer, of course, was foreseen. It was as the result of Paul’s preaching and not the observance of circumcision or anything else. Why then did they need to supplement the work of the Spirit by that of the flesh?

The second argument is well adapted to refute the Judaizing teachers, since Abraham was the founder of their faith. And yet Abraham clearly was justified by believing on God and before he was circumcised.

The argument from the teachings of Scripture requires no explanation, since the passages quoted plainly state that if one elects to be saved by the law and not by grace, he can only be saved by keeping the whole of it. Circumcision nor ceremonialism of any kind were not enough.

The work of Christ did away with all these things which only foreshadowed Him. He hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, why then dishonor His work and put ourselves voluntarily under that curse a second time? The whole argument is clear and convincing.

At this point the apostle supplements his argument by a brief disquisition on the promise of Abraham.

RELATION OF THE LAW TO THE PROMISE

He anticipates a possible objection to his argument. It were as though some one should say: Granted that God saved Abraham or accounted him righteous on the ground of his belief in His promise; is it not true that 430 years after that promise to Abraham He gave the law to Moses? And was not this law to take the place of that promise as a ground of human righteousness? Paul answers, No (Galatians 3:15-18). His imaginary interlocutor then inquires, Why was the law given? What purpose does it serve? Paul’s reply discloses two points.

First, the law was given because of transgressions, etc. (Galatians 3:19). As the transgressions of men multiplied and became aggravated, God was obliged to come to His people in an entirely new way, in a more distant revelation than existed in the time of the patriarchs. The law was given, not so much in order to prevent transgressions, as to bring men under a more strict accountability for them, and a more plainly expressed curse.

Second, the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). The Greek word for schoolmaster here means a faithful slave entrusted with the care of a boy from his tender years till puberty to keep him from physical and moral evil, and accompany him to his studies and amusements. He approached his charge with commands and prohibitions, and in a sense with limitations of his freedom. All this as a means to an end, viz: that the boy might be trained for mature age, and the assumption of that higher grade of life for which he was destined. Thus the law leads men to Christ.

It restrains and rebukes us, it shows us our sin and danger, it condemns us, and thus makes us feel the need of a Redeemer and prepares us to receive Him when presented to our faith. Compare Romans 10:4.

Paul continues this general subject throughout chapter four, climaxing the whole in the allegory of Sarah and Hagar, (Galatians 4:21-31). This is not to say that the story of Sarah and Hagar was not historical in Genesis, but only that the apostle uses the fact in an accommodated or allegorical sense for illustration. The design seems to be to show the effect of being under bondage of the Jewish law as compared with the liberty of the Gospel. Hagar and her son were treated with severity, cast out and persecuted, and became a fit representation of Jerusalem as it was in the time of Paul. Sarah and Isaac enjoyed freedom and sonship, and became correspondingly a fit representation of the New Jerusalem or the true kingdom of God. Which would these Galatian Christians choose, to remain under the freedom of the Gospel, or voluntarily put themselves into the bondage and under the yoke of Judaism?

The allegory is addressed to justified but immature believers, who, under the influence of legalistic teachers, “desire to be under the law,” and has therefore no application to a sinner seeking justification. It raises and answers for the fifth time in this epistle, the question: Is the believer under the law?

QUESTIONS

1. What has the writer entered upon in this part of the epistle?

2. What is the difference between Galatians and Romans as to the teaching about justification?

3. Name the four direct arguments for justification by faith in Chapter 3?

4. Amplify the first argument.

5. What is the title of the supplemental argument?

6. For what two-fold purpose was the law given after the promise?

7. How would you state the teaching of the allegory?

 


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Bibliography Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Galatians 3:4". The James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jgc/galatians-3.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, July 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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