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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Galatians 3

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

Galatians 3:1. St Paul having, by many arguments, proved himself to be a real apostle, and showed that his knowledge of the gospel was given him by immediate revelation from the Lord Jesus, proceeds in this and the following chapter to treat of the doctrines in dispute between him and the false teachers, and especially of that of justification, which these Jewish teachers affirmed could not be obtained by the Gentiles unless they were circumcised, and observed the ceremonies of the law of Moses; but which Paul insisted, was simply and only by faith in Christ. And to impress the Galatians the more strongly with a sense of the danger of the doctrine which his opposers taught, he here charges them with want of understanding or consideration, for listening to it, saying: O foolish Galatians — Or thoughtless, as the word ανοητοι may be properly rendered; for it not only signifies persons void of understanding, but also persons who, though they have understanding, do not form right judgments of things, through want of consideration. “The apostle, by calling the Galatians foolish, doth not contradict our Saviour’s doctrine, (Matthew 5:22,) because he doth it not, εικη, rashly, without cause, saith Theophylact, nor out of anger and ill-will to them, but from an ardent desire to make them sensible of their folly.” — Whitby. Who hath bewitched, or deceived, you — For the word βασκανειν is often used for deceiving another with false appearances, after the manner of jugglers; that ye should not obey — Should not continue to obey, that is, to be persuaded of, and influenced by; the truth — That has been so fully declared and proved to you; before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth — By our preaching; as if he had been crucified among you — As if he had said, Who hath so deluded you, as to prevail with you thus to contradict both your own reason and experience? For ye have been as fully and clearly informed of the nature and design of Christ’s sufferings, as if they had been endured by him in your very sight; and you have witnessed their efficacy in procuring for you reconciliation with God, peace of conscience, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.


Verses 2-4

Galatians 3:2-4. This only would I learn of you — That is, this one argument might convince you; received ye the Spirit — In his gifts and graces, in his witness and fruits. See Galatians 4:6; Galatians 5:22. By the works of the law — By your observing the ceremonies of Moses’s law, or by your embracing the doctrine which inculcates the necessity of complying with these rites?

or by the hearing of faith — By receiving and obeying that doctrine, which teaches that justification is attained by faith in Christ, and in the truths and promises of his gospel? Are ye so foolish — So thoughtless, as not to consider what you yourselves have experienced? having begun in the Spirit — Having entered upon your Christian course under the light and grace of the Holy Spirit, received by faith in Christ and his gospel; do you now, when you ought to be more enlightened and renewed, more acquainted with the power of faith, and therefore more spiritual; expect to be made perfect by the flesh? — Do you think to retain and complete either your justification or sanctification, by giving up that faith whereby you received both, and depending on the law, which is a gross and carnal thing when opposed to the gospel? “The law of Moses is called the flesh,” says Macknight, “because of the carnal form of worship, by sacrifices and purifications of the body, which it prescribed; because that form of worship did not cleanse the conscience of the worshipper, but only his body, and because the Israelites were put under the law by their fleshly descent from Abraham.” Have ye suffered — Both from the zealous Jews and from the heathen; so many things — For adhering to the gospel; in vain — So as to lose all the blessings which ye might have obtained by enduring to the end? Will you give up the benefit of all those sufferings, and lose, in a great measure at least, the reward of them, by relinquishing what is so material in that system of doctrine you have been suffering for? If it be yet in vain — Which I am willing to hope it is not entirely, and that, however your principles may have been shaken, yet God will preserve you from being quite overthrown.


Verses 5-9

Galatians 3:5-9. He therefore — Namely, God; that ministereth to you the Spirit — Who is continually giving you additional supplies of grace by the Spirit; and worketh miracles, &c. — Bestows the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit upon you; doeth he it by the works of the law — Through your hearing and embracing the doctrine of those who inculcate the necessity of observing the ceremonies of the law; or by the hearing of faith — By your hearing, receiving, and acquiescing in the doctrine of justification and salvation by faith in Christ and his gospel? Or doeth he it in confirmation of men’s preaching justification by observing regal rites, or of their preaching justification by faith? Even as Abraham, &c. — Doubtless he does it in confirmation of that grand doctrine, that we are justified by faith even as Abraham was. The apostle, both in this and in the epistle to the Romans, makes great use of the instance of Abraham; the rather, because from Abraham the Jews drew their great argument (as they do at this day) both for their own continuance in Judaism, and for denying the Gentiles to be the church of God. As Abraham believed God — When God said, Thy seed shall be as the stars; and it was accounted to him for righteousness Because his belief of this promise implied that he entertained just conceptions of the divine power, goodness, and veracity. See notes on Romans 4:3-22. Know then that they which are of faith — Who receive God’s truths and promises in faith, relying on the power, goodness, and faithfulness of God to fulfil them; the same are the children of Abraham — Show themselves to be his spiritual children, of the same disposition with him, and entitled to the same blessings of which he was the heir. And the Scripture — That is, the Holy Spirit, by whose inspiration the Holy Scriptures were written; foreseeing that God would justify the heathen — When he should call them by his grace, in the same manner as he justified Abraham; only through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham — Declared to him the glad tidings of salvation; saying, In, or through thee — As the father of the Messiah; shall all nations — Gentiles as well as Jews; be blessed — That is to say, by their faith in that glorious person who is to descend from thee, all persons, of whatever nation they be, who imitate thy ready and obedient faith, shall obtain justification, and all other blessings, as Abraham did by his faith. So then — The inference to be drawn is; all they — And they only; who are of faith — Who believe God as Abraham did, and show their faith by their works; are blessed with faithful Abraham — Shall inherit the promises made to him, and the blessings promised, though they are as he was when he first received these promises, in a state of uncircumcision, and always remain in that state, and never comply with the ceremonies of the Mosaic law.


Verse 10

Galatians 3:10. As many as are of the works of the law — Of the number of those who seek justification thereby; are under — Or liable to; the curse: for it is written, (Deuteronomy 27:26,) Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things, &c. — Or, as it is there expressed, that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. So that it required what no man on earth can perform, namely, universal, perfect, uninterrupted, and perpetual obedience. The apostle, it must be observed, in quoting this passage from the book of Deuteronomy, follows the translation of the LXX., the Hebrew word, which our translators have rendered confirmeth, signifying also continueth, and having been so translated, 1 Samuel 13:14, Thy kingdom shall not continue; the apostle, following the LXX., has added the words, every one and all, and written in this book. “But,” as Macknight observes, “they make no alteration in the sense of the passage; for the indefinite proposition, cursed is he, hath the same meaning with cursed is every one; and all things written in the book of the law, is perfectly the same with the words of this law; which, as is plain from the context, means not any particular law, but the law of Moses in general.”


Verse 11-12

Galatians 3:11-12. That no man is justified by his obedience to the law in the sight of God — Whatever he may be in the sight of man; is further evident From the words of Habakkuk, who hath said nothing of men’s being justified by works, but hath declared, The just shall live by faith — That is, the man who is accounted just or righteous before God, shall be made and continue such, and consequently shall live a spiritual life here, and receive eternal life hereafter, by faith. This is the way God hath chosen: see on Romans 1:17. And the law — Strictly considered; is not of faith — Doth not allow, or countenance, the seeking of salvation in such a way. In other words, the seeking justification, by keeping the law, whether moral or ceremonial, is quite a different thing from seeking it by faith. For the law saith not, Believe, but, Do, and live; its language is, The man that doeth them — Namely, the things commanded; shall live in, or by them — That is, he who perfectly and constantly conforms himself to these precepts, shall have a right to life and everlasting happiness, in consequence thereof; but he that breaks them must bear the penalty, without any further assistance from a law, which, being in one instance violated, must for ever condemn the transgressor. See on Leviticus 18:5.


Verse 13-14

Galatians 3:13-14. Christ — Christ alone; the abruptness of the sentence shows a holy indignation at those who reject so great a blessing; hath redeemed us — Or, hath bought us off, whether Jews or Gentiles; from the curse of the law — The curse which the law denounces against all transgressors of it, or the punishment threatened to them. Dr. Whitby proves, in his note on this verse, that the violation of the law given to Adam was attended with a curse, as well as that given to the Israelites by Moses, and that it is the more general curse. Nearly to the same purpose speaks Dr. Macknight, thus: — “That the persons here said to be bought off from the curse of the law, are the Gentiles as well as the Jews, is evident from Galatians 3:10, where the apostle tells us, As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for the proposition being general, it implies that the Gentiles as well as the Jews are under the curse, and need to be bought off. This appears likewise from the purpose for which Christ is said (Galatians 3:14) to have bought us off; namely, that the blessing of Abraham might come on the nations, that is, on both Jews and Gentiles. Next, the curse of the law, from which all are bought off by Christ, is not a curse peculiar to the law of Moses. For as the Gentiles never were under that law, they could have no concern with its curse. But it is the curse of that more ancient law of works, under which Adam and Eve fell, and which, through their fall, came on all their posterity. Also it is the curse of the law of nature, under which all mankind, as the subjects of God’s universal moral government, are lying for having broken that law. These curses are called by the general name of the curse of the law; not as being peculiar to the law of Moses, but because they were published in the law of Moses. From this curse of the law of works, Christ hath bought us off, by becoming a curse for us. For in the view of his death, to be accomplished in due time, God allowed Adam and his posterity a short life on earth, and resolved to raise them all from the dead, that every one may receive reward, or punishment, according to the deeds done by him in the body. Further, being bought off by Christ from the curse of the law of works, mankind, at the fall, were bought off from law itself; not indeed as a rule of life, but as a rule of justification; and had a trial appointed to them under a more gracious dispensation, in which not a perfect obedience to law, but the obedience of faith is required in order to their obtaining eternal life. Of this gracious dispensation, or covenant, St. Paul hath given a clear account,” Romans 5:18. The same writer observes further here, “Christ’s dying on the cross is called his becoming a curse; that is, an accursed person, a person ignominiously punished as a malefactor: not because he was really a malefactor, and the object of God’s displeasure, but because he was punished in the manner in which accursed persons, or malefactors, are punished. He was not a transgressor, but he was numbered with the transgressors, Isaiah 53:12.” That the blessing of Abraham — The blessing promised to him; might come on the Gentiles also; that we — Who believe, whether Jews or Gentiles; might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith — As the evidence of our being justified by faith, and of our being the sons of God, Galatians 4:5-7. This promise of the Spirit, which includes all the other promises, is not explicitly mentioned in the covenant with Abraham, but it is implied in the promise, (Genesis 22:17,) In blessing I will bless thee; and is expressly mentioned by the prophets, Isaiah 44:3; Ezekiel 39:29; Joel 2:28.


Verse 15

Galatians 3:15. I speak after the manner of men — I illustrate this by a familiar instance, taken from the practice of men: or, I argue on the principles of common equity, according to what is the allowed rule of all human compacts: Though it be but a man’s covenant — That is, the covenant of a man with his fellow-creature: yet if it be confirmed — Legally, by mutual promise, engagement, and seal; no man — No, not the covenanter himself, unless something unforeseen occur, which cannot be the case with God; disannulleth — What was agreed to by it; or addeth thereto — Any new condition, or altereth the terms of it, without the consent of the other stipulating party.


Verse 16

Galatians 3:16. Now to Abraham, &c. — To apply this to the case before us. The promises relating to the justification of believers, and the blessings consequent thereon, were made first by God to Abraham and his seed, who are expressly mentioned as making a party with him in the covenant. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many — As if the promises belonged to all his seed, both natural and spiritual, or to several kinds of seed; but as of one — “The apostle having affirmed, (Galatians 3:15,) that, according to the customs of men, none but the parties themselves can set aside or alter a covenant that is ratified, he observes, in this verse, that the promises in the covenant with Abraham were made to him and his seed;” to him, Genesis 12:3; In thee shall all the families, or tribes, of the earth be blessed: to his seed, Genesis 22:18; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. “Now, since by the oath, which God sware to Abraham, after he had laid Isaac on the altar, both promises were ratified, the apostle reasons justly, when he affirms that both promises must be fulfilled. And having shown, (Galatians 3:9,) that the promise to Abraham, to bless all the families of the earth in him, means their being blessed as Abraham had been, not with justification through the law of Moses, as the Jews affirmed, but with justification by faith, he proceeds, in this passage, to consider the promise made to Abraham’s seed, that in it likewise all the nations of the earth should be blessed. And from the words of the promise, which are not, And in thy seeds, but, And in thy seed, he argues that the seed in which the nations of the earth should be blessed, is not Abraham’s seed in general, but one of his seed in particular, namely, Christ; who, by dying for all nations, hath delivered them from the curse of the law, that the blessing of justification by faith might come on believers of all nations, through Christ, as was promised to Abraham and to Christ. To this argument it hath been objected, that the word seed was never used by the Hebrews in the plural number, except to denote the seeds of vegetables, Daniel 1:12.” To this it may be answered, “That, notwithstanding the Hebrews commonly used the word seed collectively, to denote a multitude of children, they used it likewise for a single person, and especially a son, Genesis 3:15; I will put enmity between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. And Eve, speaking of Seth, says, (Genesis 4:25,) God hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew. The word seed being thus applied to denote a single person, as well as a multitude, is ambiguous, and therefore the Jews could not certainly know that they were to be instruments of blessing the nations, unless it had been said, And in thy seeds, or sons. And from the apostle’s argument, we may presume the word was used in the plural, to denote either a multitude or a diversity of children. In this sense, Eve had two seeds in her two sons, as is evident from her calling Seth another seed. So likewise Abraham had two seeds in Isaac and Ishmael. See Genesis 21:12-13. Now, because God termed Ishmael Abraham’s seed, perhaps Ishmael’s descendants affirmed that they also were the seed of Abraham in which the nations were to be blessed. And if the Jewish doctors confuted their claim, by observing, that in the promise it is not said, in seeds, that is, in sons, as God would have said, if he had meant both Ishmael and Isaac, but in thy seed, the apostle might, with propriety, turn their own argument against themselves, especially as the Jews were one of the nations of the earth that were to be blessed in Abraham’s seed. Lastly, to use the word seed for a single person was highly proper in the covenant with Abraham, wherein God declared his gracious purpose of saving mankind; because that term leads us back to the original promise, that the seed, or son of the woman, should bruise the serpent’s head.” — Macknight. Which is Christ — In Christ, and in no other of Abraham’s seed, have all the nations of the earth been blessed. They have not been blessed in Isaac, although it was said of him, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. Neither have they all been blessed in Abraham’s posterity collectively as a nation; nor in any individual of his posterity, except in Christ alone. He therefore is the only seed of Abraham spoken of in the promise, as the apostle expressly assures us. Besides, Peter, long before Paul became a Christian, gave the same interpretation of this promise, as we see Acts 3:25.


Verse 17-18

Galatians 3:17-18. And this I say — What I mean by the foregoing example of human covenants is this; The covenant that was confirmed before of God By the promise itself, by the repetition of it, and by a solemn oath, concerning the blessing all nations through Christ; the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after the date of it, cannot disannul — Abolish, or make it void, by introducing a new way of justification, or of blessing the nations, namely, by the works of the Mosaic law; so as to make the promise of no effect: 1st, With regard to other nations, which would be the case if only the Jews could obtain the accomplishment of it: yea, 2d, With regard to them also, if it were to be by works superseding it, and introducing another way of obtaining the blessing. “The apostle’s argument proceeds on this undeniable principle of justice, that a covenant made by two parties cannot, after it is ratified, be altered or cancelled, except with the consent of both parties: who in the present case were, on the one hand, God; and on the other, Abraham and his seed, Christ. Wherefore, as neither Abraham nor his seed, Christ, was present at the making of the Sinai covenant, nothing in it can alter or set aside the covenant with Abraham, concerning the blessing of the nations in Christ.”

It must be observed, that the four hundred and thirty years here spoken of are not to be computed from the time when the covenant was confirmed, but from the time when it was first made, as mentioned Genesis 12:3, when Abraham was yet in Ur of the Chaldees, and was seventy-five years old, Galatians 3:4. From that time to the birth of Isaac, which happened when Abraham was one hundred years old, are twenty-five years, Genesis 21:5. To the birth of Jacob were sixty years, Isaac being sixty years old when Jacob was born, Genesis 25:26. From Jacob’s birth to his going into Egypt were one hundred and thirty years, as he says to Pharaoh, Genesis 47:9; and according to the LXX. the Israelites sojourned in Egypt two hundred and fifteen years; for thus they translate Exodus 12:40 : Now the sojourning of the children of Israel in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, was four hundred and thirty years, the number mentioned by the apostle. For — Or, besides, this being a new argument, drawn not from the time, as the former was, but from the nature of the transaction; if the inheritance — Of the blessing promised to Abraham; be of the law — Be suspended on such a condition that it cannot be obtained but by the observation of the Mosaic law, it must then follow that it is no more of promise — By virtue of a free gratuitous promise; but that cannot be said, for God gave it to Abraham by promise — It must therefore be by it, and not by the law, which must have been given for some other and subordinate end, as the next verse shows.


Verse 19

Galatians 3:19. Wherefore then serveth the law — If the inheritance was not by the law, but by the promise, as a free gift, for what purpose was the law given, or what significancy had it? It was added because of transgressions — That is, to restrain the Israelites from transgressions, particularly idolatry, and the vices connected with idolatry, the evil of which the law discovered to them by its prohibitions and curse. Agreeably to this account of the law, idolatry, and all the abominations practised by the Canaanites, and the other heathen nations who surrounded the Israelites, were forbidden in the law under the severest penalties. Maimonides, a learned Jew, acknowledges, in his More-Nevochim, that the ceremonial law was given for the extirpation of idolatry; for, saith he, “When God sent Moses to redeem his people out of Egypt, it was the usual custom of the world, and the worship in which all nations were bred up, to build temples in honour of the sun, moon, and stars, and to offer divers kinds of animals to them, and to have priests appointed for that end. Therefore God, knowing it is beyond the strength of human nature instantly to quit that which it hath been long accustomed to, and so is powerfully inclined to, would not command that all that kind of worship should be abolished, and that he should be worshipped only in spirit; but required that he only should be the object of this outward worship; that temples and altars should be built to him alone; sacrifices offered to him only, and priests consecrated to his service.” So Cedrenus, of their festivals, separations, purgations, oblations, &c., observing, God enjoined them, that, being employed in doing these things to the true God, they might abstain from idolatry. And thus, saith Dr. Spencer, were they kept under the discipline of the law, and shut up from the idolatrous rites and customs of the heathen world, by the strictness of these legal observances, and the penalties denounced against the violators of them. “And it is well-known,” says Whitby, “that all the ancient fathers were of this opinion, that God gave the Jews only the decalogue, till they had made the golden calf; and that afterward he laid this yoke of ceremonies upon them to restrain them from idolatry, (see Ezekiel 20:7; Ezekiel 20:11; Ezekiel 20:24-25,) called by the apostle the law of carnal commandments, which he says, was abolished for the weakness and unprofitableness of it, Hebrews 7:16. Hence these ceremonies were called by St. Paul, στοιχεια του κοσμου, the rudiments of the world, Galatians 4:3; Colossians 2:8; namely, because for matter they were the same which the heathen used before to their false gods. But this ancient exposition, though partly true, does not contain the whole truth; for the apostle, in the Epistle to the Romans, informs us, that the law entered that sin might abound; that is, might appear to abound, unto death, that sin might appear sin, working death in, us, Romans 5:20; Romans 7:13. And that the law worketh wrath, namely, by giving us the knowledge of that sin which deserves it, Romans 3:20; Romans 4:15. And this answers to what the apostle here saith, that the law was added because of transgressions, namely, to discover them, and the punishment due to them. See on Galatians 3:22; Galatians 3:24. So also Macknight: “The law was added after the promise, to show the Israelites what things were offensive to God, Romans 3:20. Also, that by the manner in which it was given, becoming sensible of their transgressions, and of God’s displeasure with them for their transgressions, and of the punishment to which they were liable, they might be constrained to have recourse to the covenant with Abraham, in which justification was promised through faith, as it is now promised in the gospel. See Colossians 2:14.” Till the seed should come — That illustrious seed, the Messiah; to whom the promise was made — “It was not fit that the law of Moses, which condemned every sinner to death, should continue any longer than till the seed should come to whom it was promised that in him all nations should be blessed, by having their faith counted for righteousness. For Christ having come, and published in his gospel God’s gracious intention of justifying believers of all nations by faith, if the law of Moses, which condemned every sinner to death without mercy, had been allowed to remain, it would have contradicted the gospel, and have made the promise of no effect. It was, therefore, abrogated with great propriety at the death of Christ; especially as the gospel was a dispensation of religion more effectual than the law for destroying idolatry, and restraining transgression.” And was ordained — Greek, διαταγεις, appointed, promulgated, or spoken, as it is expressed Hebrews 2:2. This is affirmed likewise by Stephen, Acts 7:38; Acts 7:53. In the hand of a mediator — Namely, Moses, then appointed by God to act the part of a mediator between him and the people of Israel. The law was not given to Israel, as the promise was to Abraham, immediately from God himself, but was conveyed by the ministry of angels to Moses, and delivered into his hand as a mediator between God and them, and as a type of the great Mediator.


Verse 20

Galatians 3:20. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one — There must be two parties, or there can be no place or use for a mediator: but God, who made the free promise to Abraham, is only one of the parties; the other, Abraham, was not present at the time of Moses. Therefore, in the affair of the promise, Moses had nothing to do: the law, wherein he was concerned, was a transaction of quite another nature. Or, as Dr. Doddridge paraphrases this difficult passage more at large, following, as he says, Mr. Locke’s interpretation, not without attentively comparing a variety of others, “A mediator is not merely the mediator of one party, but at least of two, between which he must pass, and, by the nature of his office, transact for both; but God is only one party in that covenant made with Abraham, and Abraham and his seed, including all that believe, both Jews and Gentiles, are the other. As Moses, therefore, when the law was given, stood at that time, between the Lord and Israel, (Deuteronomy 5:5,)

and did not pass between the whole collective body of Abraham’s seed and the blessed God; so nothing was transacted by him with relation to those for whom he did not appear, and consequently nothing in that covenant wherein he did mediate could disannul the promise, or affect the right accruing to any from a prior engagement, in which the Gentiles were concerned as well as the Israelites; for no covenant can be altered but by the mutual consent of both parties; and in what was done at mount Sinai by the mediation of Moses, there was none to appear for the Gentiles; so that this transaction between God and the Israelites could have no force to abrogate the promise, which extended likewise to the Gentiles, or to vacate a covenant that was made between parties of which one only was there.”


Verse 21-22

Galatians 3:21-22. Is the law then — Which requires perfect obedience, and subjects all that in any respect violate it, to the curse, against, or contrary to, the promises of God — Wherein he declares that he will justify men by faith? God forbid — That we should intimate any thing of that kind! On the contrary, it was intended to be subservient to the promise, by leading those who were under it to a higher and better dispensation, by subjecting them to the curse, without giving them the least hope of mercy, to oblige them to flee to the promises for justification. For if there had been a law given which could have given life — Either spiritual or eternal; if any law, considered in itself alone, could have been a sufficient mean of justification and eternal happiness, then verily righteousness — Justification, and the blessings consequent thereon; would have been by the Mosaic law — Which is so holy, just, and good in all its moral precepts. By this the apostle shows that the law of Moses was utterly incapable of giving the Jews life and salvation; because, considered in itself, independent of the covenant of grace, it neither promised them the pardon of sin on their repentance, nor the influences of the divine Spirit to enable them to overcome and mortify the corruption of their nature; and of consequence, neither gave them a title to, nor a meetness for, eternal life. Justification, therefore, was not to be obtained by that law. On the contrary, the Scripture — Wherein that law is written; hath concluded all under sin — Hath shut them up together, (so the word συνεκλεισεν properly signifies,) as in a prison, under sentence of death; that is, hath declared them all to be so shut up; that the promise — That is, the blessing of life and salvation, promised through faith in Jesus Christ, might be freely given to them that truly believe in him, and in the truths and promises of his gospel.


Verse 23

Galatians 3:23. But before faith — That is, the gospel dispensation, came, we — The nation of the Jews; were kept under the law — Under that dispensation, as condemned malefactors are guarded in close custody; shut up — As prisoners under sentence; unto the faith which should afterward be revealed — Reserved and prepared for the gospel. Observe here, reader, 1st, “The gospel is called faith, (Galatians 3:2; Galatians 3:23; Galatians 3:25,) and the law of faith, (Romans 3:27,) because it requires faith, instead of perfect obedience, as the means of men’s justification. This law of faith, or method of justification, came at the fall: it was then established; and till it came, Adam was kept in ward without hope, under the law he had broken. In like manner the Gentiles, under the law of nature, and the Jews, under the law of Moses, were kept in ward, as criminals, and had no hope of pardon, but what the law of faith gave them, as made known obscurely in the first promise, (Genesis 3:15,) and afterward in the covenant with Abraham. 2d, The law of Moses, instead of being contrary to the promises of God, or covenant with Abraham, effectually co-operates therewith. By the perfection and spirituality of its moral precepts, it makes us sensible of our inability to obey it perfectly; and by its curse, denounced against every one who does not obey perfectly, it makes us flee, trembling and affrighted, to the method of salvation revealed to us in the covenant with Abraham, and published to all mankind in the gospel.” — Macknight.


Verses 24-26

Galatians 3:24-26. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster — That is, the instructer of the childhood of us Jews, or of the church of God, in its state of minority; see on Galatians 4:3; to bring us unto Christ — To train us up for him. And this it did, both by its precepts, which showed us the need we had of his atonement, and by its sacrifices, oblations, purifications, and other ceremonies, which all pointed us to him; that we might be justified by faith — In him, and so might obtain the benefit of the promise. But after that faith is come — The gospel dispensation being fully revealed, and the law of faith promulgated; we are no longer under that schoolmaster

The Mosaic law, but pass over into a more liberal and happy state. For ye — Who have believed on Christ, with a faith working by love; are all — Not merely the subjects and servants of God, your Lord and Master, but his children, by faith in Christ Jesus — The sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty; yea, his heirs, and joint heirs with his beloved Son: and to you his commandments are not grievous.


Verses 27-29

Galatians 3:27-29. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ — In consequence of your believing in him with your heart unto righteousness, and have thereby testified and professed your faith in him; have put on Christ — Have received him as your righteousness and sanctification; have obtained union with him, and in consequence thereof a conformity to him; have in you the mind which was in him, and walk as he walked. “In the expression, have put on Christ, there is an allusion to the symbolical rite which in the first age usually accompanied baptism. The person to be baptized put off his old clothes before he went into the water, and put on new or clean raiment when he came out of it; to signify that he had put off his old corrupted nature, with all his former bad principles and corrupt practices, and was become a new man. Hence the expressions, putting off the old man, and putting on the new, Ephesians 4:22; Ephesians 4:24.” — Macknight. There is neither Jew nor Greek, &c. — That is, the distinctions, which were before so much regarded, are in a manner done away, with respect to such: for under the gospel dispensation, God pays no regard to persons on account of their descent, their station, or their sex; but all who truly believe in Christ, have an equal right to the privileges of the gospel, are equally in favour with God, and are equal in respect and dignity. The Greek has the same privileges with the Jew, and the Jew may, without offending God, use the same freedom in approaching him with the Greek. To the Judaizing teachers, who imagined that the being Abraham’s children, according to the flesh, would of itself secure their acceptance with God, this must have appeared a most humiliating doctrine. But to the Galatians it was of singular use, to prevent their being seduced by those teachers, who strongly affirmed that the Gentiles could not share in the privileges of the people of God, without being circumcised. There is neither bond nor free — But slaves are now the Lord’s free-men, and freemen the Lord’s servants; and this consideration makes the freeman humble, and the slave cheerful; swallowing up, in a great measure, the sense of his servitude. There is neither male nor female — Under the law, males had greater privileges than females. For males alone bare in their bodies the sign of God’s covenant; they alone were capable of the priesthood and of the kingdom; and heritages belonged to them, preferably to females, in the same degree. For ye are all one in Christ Jesus — Are equally accepted in him; and being made one body in him, believers, of whatever nation, or sex, or condition they be, are all cemented in the bonds of holy love, and animated with the views of the same happiness. And if ye be Christ’s — By faith united to him, who is the promised seed, in whom all the nations shall be blessed; then are ye the true seed of Abraham — And are equally so whether ye be circumcised or not; and therefore are heirs according to the promise — Have a right to the heavenly inheritance by virtue of the promise made to Abraham.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Galatians 3:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/galatians-3.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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