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Bible Commentaries

Wesley's Explanatory Notes
Galatians 3



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Verse 1

O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

O thoughtless Galatians — He breaks in upon them with a beautiful abruptness.

Who hath bewitched you — Thus to contradict both your own reason and experience. Before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been as evidently set forth - By our preaching, as if he had been crucified among you.

Verse 2

This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

This only would I learn of you — That is, this one argument might convince you. Did ye receive the witness and the fruit of the Spirit by performing the works of the law, or by hearing of and receiving faith?

Verse 3

Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

Are ye so thoughtless — As not to consider what you have yourselves experienced? Having begun in the Spirit - Having set out under the light and power of the Spirit by faith, do ye now, when ye ought to be more spiritual, and more acquainted with the power of faith, expect to be made perfect by the flesh? Do you think to complete either your justification or sanctification, by giving up that faith, and depending on the law, which is a gross and carnal thing when opposed to the gospel?

Verse 4

Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.

Have ye suffered — Both from the zealous Jews and from the heathens.

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.

If it be yet in vain — As if he had said, I hope better things, even that ye will endure to the end.

Verse 5

He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

And, at the present time, Doth he that ministereth the gift of the Spirit to you, and worketh miracles among you, do it by the works of the law - That is, in confirmation of his preaching justification by works, or of his preaching justification by faith?

Verse 6

Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

Doubtless 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 this day, both for their own continuance in Judaism, and for denying the gentiles to be the church of God. Genesis 15:6

Verse 7

Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.

Know then that they who are partakers of his faith, these, and these only, are the sons of Abraham, and therefore heirs of the promises made to him.

Verse 8

And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.

And the scripture — That is, the Holy Spirit, who gave the scripture. Foreseeing that God would justify the gentiles also by faith, declared before - So great is the excellency and fulness of the scripture, that all the things which can ever be controverted are therein both foreseen and determined. In or through thee - As the father of the Messiah, shall all the nations be blessed. Genesis 12:3

Verse 9

So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

So then all they, and they only, who are of faith - Who truly believe.

Are blessed with faithful Abraham — Receive the blessing as he did, namely, by faith.

Verse 10

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 which are written in the book of the law to do them.

They only receive it.

For as many as are of the works of the law — As God deals with on that footing, only on the terms the law proposes, are under a curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one who continueth not in all the things which are written in the law. Who continueth not in all the things - So it requires what no man can perform, namely, perfect, uninterrupted, and perpetual obedience. Deuteronomy 27:26

Verse 11

But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

But that none is justified by his obedience to the law in the sight of God - Whatever may be done in the sight of man, is farther evident from the words of Habakkuk, The just shall live by faith - That is, the man who is accounted just or righteous before God, shall continue in a state of acceptance, life, and salvation, by faith. This is the way God hath chosen. Habakkuk 2:4.

Verse 12

And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.

And the law is not of faith — But quite opposite to it: it does not say, Believe; but, Do. Leviticus 18:5

Verse 13

Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

Christ — Christ alone. The abruptness of the sentence shows an holy indignation at those who reject so great a blessing.

Hath redeemed us — Whether Jews or gentiles, at an high price.

From the curse of the law — The curse of God, which the law denounces against all transgressors of it.

Being made a curse for us — Taking the curse upon himself, that we might be delivered from it, willingly submitting to that death which the law pronounces peculiarly accursed. Deuteronomy 21:23.

Verse 14

That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

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 — Which includes all the other promises.

Through faith — Not by works; for faith looks wholly to the promise.

Verse 15

Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.

I speak after the manner of men — I illustrate this by a familiar instance, taken from the practice of men. Though it be but a man's covenant, yet, if it be once legally confirmed, none - No, not the covenanter himself, unless something unforeseen occur, which cannot be the case with God.

Disannulleth, or addeth thereto — Any new conditions.

Verse 16

Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

Now the promises were made to Abraham and his seed — Several promises were made to Abraham; but the chief of all, and which was several times repeated, was that of the blessing through Christ.

He — That is, God.

Saith not, And to seeds, as of many — As if the promise were made to several kinds of seed.

But as of one — That is, one kind of seed, one posterity, one kind of sons. And to all these the blessing belonged by promise.

Which is Christ — including all that believe in him. Genesis 22:18.

Verse 17

And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.

And this I say — What I mean is this.

The covenant which was before confirmed 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 — Counting from the time when the promise was first made to Abraham, Genesis 12:2,3.

Doth not disannul, so as to make the promise of no effect — With regard to all nations, if only the Jewish were to receive it; yea, with regard to them also, if it was by works, so as to supersede it, and introduce another way of obtaining the blessing.

Verse 18

For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

And again — This is a new argument. The former was drawn from the time, this from the nature, of the transaction. If the eternal inheritance be obtained by keeping the law, it is no more by virtue of the free promise - These being just opposite to each other. But it is by promise. Therefore it is not by the law.

Verse 19

Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

It — The ceremonial law.

Was added — To the promise.

Because of transgressions — Probably, the yoke of the ceremonial law was inflicted as a punishment for the national sin of idolatry, Exodus 32:1, at least the more grievous parts of it; and the whole of it was a prophetic type of Christ. The moral law was added to the promise to discover and restrain transgressions, to convince men of their guilt, and need of the promise, and give some check to sin. And this law passeth not away; but the ceremonial law was only introduced till Christ, the seed to or through whom the promise was made, should come. And it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator - It was not given to Israel, like the promise 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, to remind them of the great Mediator.

Verse 20

Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.

Now the mediator is not a mediator of one — There must be two parties, or there can be no mediator between them; 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 promise Moses had nothing to do. The law, wherein he was concerned, was a transaction of quite another nature.

Verse 21

Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.

Will it follow from hence that the law is against, opposite to, the promises of God? By no means. They are well consistent. But yet the law cannot give life, as the promise doth.

If there had been a law which could have given life — Which could have entitled a sinner to life, God would have spared his own Son, and righteousness, or justification. with all the blessings consequent upon it, would have been by that law.

Verse 22

But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

But, on the contrary, the scripture wherein that law is written hath concluded all under sin - Hath shut them up together, (so the word properly signifies,) as in a prison, under sentence of death, to the end that all being cut off from expecting justification by the law, the promise might be freely given to them that believe.

Verse 23

But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

But before faith — That is, the gospel dispensation.

Came, we were kept — As in close custody.

Under the law — The Mosaic dispensation.

Shut up unto the faith which was to be revealed — Reserved and prepared for the gospel dispensation.

Verse 24

Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster unto Christ — It was designed to train us up for Christ. And this it did both by its commands, which showed the need we had of his atonement; and its ceremonies, which all pointed us to him.

Verse 25

But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

But faith — That is, the gospel dispensation. Being come, we are no longer under that schoolmaster - The Mosaic dispensation.

Verse 26

For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

For ye — Christians. Are all adult sons of God - And so need a schoolmaster no longer.

Verse 27

For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

For as many of you as have testified your faith by being baptized in the name of Christ, have put on Christ - Have received him as your righteousness, and are therefore sons of God through him.

Verse 28

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

There is neither Jew nor Greek — That is, there is no difference between them; they are equally accepted through faith.

There is neither male nor female — Circumcision being laid aside, which was peculiar to males, and was designed to put a difference, during that dispensation, between Jews and gentiles.

Verse 29

And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

If ye are Christ's — That is, believers in him.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Galatians 3:4". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 28th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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