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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE GALATIANS - Chapter 1 - Verse 4
Verse 4. Who gave himself for our sins. The reason why Paul so soon introduces this important doctrine, and makes it here so prominent, probably is, that this was the cardinal doctrine of the Christian religion, the great truth which was ever to be kept before the mind, and because this truth had been in fact lost sight of by them. They had embraced doctrines which tended to obscure it, or to make it void. They had been led into error by the Judaizing teachers, who held that it was necessary to be circumcised, and to conform to the whole Jewish ritual. Yet the tendency of all this was to obscure the doctrines of the gospel, and particularly the great truth that men can be justified only by faith in the blood of Jesus, Ga 5:4. Comp. Ga 1:6,7. Paul, therefore, wished to make this prominent—the very starting point in their religion; a truth never to be forgotten, that Christ gave himself for their sins, that he might deliver them from all the bad influences of this world, and from all the false systems of religion engendered in this world. The expression "who gave" tou dontov is one that often occurs in relation to the work of the Redeemer, where it is represented as a gift, either on the part of God, or on the part of Christ himself. See Barnes "Joh 3:16".
This passage proves,
(1.) that it was wholly voluntary on the part of the Lord Jesus. No one compelled him to come; no one could compel him. It is not too much to say, that God could not, and would not, COMPEL any innocent and holy being to undertake the great work of the atonement, and endure the bitter sorrows which were necessary to redeem man. God will compel the guilty to suffer, but he never will compel the innocent to endure sorrows, even in behalf of others. The whole work of redemption must be voluntary, or it could not be performed.
(2.) It evinced great benevolence on the part of the Redeemer. He did not come to take upon himself unknown and unsurveyed woes. He did not go to work in the dark. He knew what was to be done. He knew just what sorrows were to be endured—how long, how keen, how awful. And yet, knowing this, he came resolved and prepared to endure all those woes, and to drink the bitter cup to the dregs.
(3.) If there had not been this benevolence in his bosom, man must have perished for ever. He could not have saved himself; and he had no power or right to compel another to suffer in his behalf; and even God would not lay this mighty burden on any other, unless he was entirely willing to endure it. How much, then, do we owe to the Lord Jesus; and how entirely should we devote our lives to him who loved us, and gave himself for us! The word himself is rendered, by the Syriac, his life, (Naphshe) and this is in fact the sense of the Greek, that he gave his life for our sins, or that he died in our stead. He gave his life up to toil, tears, privation, sorrow, and death, that he might redeem us. The phrase, "for our sins," uper twn amartiwn hmwn, means the same as on account of; meaning, that the cause or reason why he gave himself to death was our sins; that is, he died because we are sinners, and because we could be saved only by his giving himself up to death. Many Mss., instead of uper, here read peri, but the sense is not materially varied. The Syriac translates it, "who gave himself instead of," by a word denoting that there was a substitution of the Redeemer in our place. The sense is, that the Lord Jesus became a vicarious offering, and died in the stead of sinners. It is not possible to express this idea more distinctly and unambiguously than Paul has done in this passage. Sin was the procuring cause of his death; to make expiation for sin was the design of his coming; and sin is pardoned and removed only by his substituted suffering.
That he might deliver us. The word here used exelhtai, properly means, to pluck out, to tear out; to take out from a number, to select; then to rescue or deliver. This is the sense here. He came and gave himself that he might rescue or deliver us from this present evil world. It does not mean to take away by death, or to remove to another world, but that he might effect a separation between us and what the apostle calls here, "this present evil world." The grand purpose was to rescue sinners from the dominion of this world, and separate them unto God.
This present evil world. See Joh 17:15,16. Locke supposes that by this phrase is intended the Jewish institutions, or the Mosaical age, in contradistinction from the age of the Messiah. Bloomfield supposes that it means "the present state of being, this life, filled as it is with calamity, sin, and sorrow; or, rather, the sin itself, and the misery consequent upon it." Rosenmuller understands by it, "the men of this age, Jews, who reject the Messiah; and Pagans, who are devoted to idolatry and crime." The word rendered world, aiwn, means properly age, an indefinitely long period of time; then eternity, for ever. It then comes to mean the world, either present or future; and then the present world, as it is, with its cares, temptations, and desires; the idea of evil, physical and moral, being everywhere implied, (Robinson, Lex.,) Mt 13:22; Lu 16:8; Lu 20:34; Ro 12:2. Here it means the world as it is, without religion; a world of bad passions, false opinions, corrupt desires; a world full of ambition, and of the love of pleasure and of gold; a world where God is not loved or obeyed; a world where men are regardless of right, and truth, and duty; where they live for themselves, and not for God; in short, that great community, which in the Scriptures is called THE WORLD, in contradistinction from the kingdom of God. That world, that evil world, is full of sin; and the object of the Redeemer was to deliver us from that; that is, to effect a separation between his followers and that. It follows, therefore, that his followers constitute a peculiar community, not governed by the prevailing maxims, or influenced by the peculiar feelings of the people of this world. And it follows, also, that if there is not in fact such a separation, then the purpose of the Redeemer's death, in regard to us, has not been effected, and we are still a part of that great and ungodly community, the world.
According to the will of God, etc. Not by the will of man, or by his wisdom, but in accordance with the will of God. It was his purpose that the Lord Jesus should thus give himself; and his doing it was in accordance with his will, and was pleasing in his sight. The whole plan originated in the Divine purpose, and has been executed in accordance with the Divine will. If in accordance with his will, it is good, and is worthy of universal acceptation:
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