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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE GALATIANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 1

 

GALATIANS CHAPTER III

The address of Paul to Peter, as I suppose, was closed at the last verse of chapter 2. The apostle in this chapter, in a direct address to the Galatians, pursues the argument on the subject of justification by faith. In the previous chapters he had shown them fully that he had received his views of 'the gospel directly from the Lord Jesus, and that he had the concurrence of the most eminent among the apostles themselves. He proceeds to state more fully what his views were; to confirm them by the authority of the Old Testament; and to show the necessary effect of an observance of the laws of Moses on the great doctrine of justification by faith. This subject is pursued through this chapter and the following. This chapter comprises the following subjects:—

(1.) A severe reproof of the Galatians for having been so easily seduced, by the arts of cunning men, from the simplicity of the gospel, Ga 3:1. He says that Christ had been plainly set forth crucified among them, and it was strange that they had so soon been led astray from the glorious doctrine of salvation by faith.

(2.) He appeals to them to show that the great benefits which they had received had not been in consequence of the observance of the Mosaic rites, but had come solely by the hearing of the gospel, Ga 3:2-6. Particularly the Holy Spirit, with all his miraculous and converting and sanctifying influences, had been imparted only in connexion with the gospel. This was the most rich and most valuable endowment which they had ever received; and this was solely by the preaching of Christ and him crucified.

(3.) In illustration of the doctrine of justification by faith, and in proof of the truth of it, he refers to the case of Abraham, and shows that he was justified in this manner, and that the Scripture had promised that others would be justified in the same way, Ga 3:6-9.

(4.) He shows that the law pronounced a curse on all those who were under it, and that consequently it was impossible to be justified by it. But Christ had redeemed us from that curse, having taken the curse on himself, so that now we might be justified in the sight of God. In this way, says he, the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles, and they all might be saved in the same manner that he was, Ga 3:10-14.

(5.) This view he confirms by showing that the promise made to Abraham was made before the giving of the law. It was a mode of justification in existence before the law of Moses was given. It was of the nature of a solemn compact or covenant on the part of God. It referred particularly to the Messiah, and to the mode of justification in him. And as it was of the nature of a covenant, it was impossible that the law given many years after could disannul it, or render it void, Ga 3:15-18.

(6.) It might then be asked, what was the use of the law? Why was it given? It was added, Paul says, on account of transgressions, and was designed to restrain men from sin, and to show them their guilt. It was, further, not superior to the promise of a Mediator, or to the Mediator; for it was appointed by the instrumentality of angels, and it was in the hands of the Mediator himself, under him, and subject to him. It could not, therefore, he superior to him, and to the plan of justification through him, Ga 3:19,20.

(7.) Yet Paul answers an important objection here, and a very obvious and material inquiry. It is, whether he means to teach that the law of God is contradictory to his promises? Whether the law and the gospel are rival systems? Whether it is necessary in order to hold to the excellency of the one, to hold that the other is contradictory, evil, and worthless? To all this he answers; and says, by no means. He says the fault was not in the law. The view which he had taken, and which was revealed in the Bible, arose from the nature of the case. The law was as good a law as could be made, and it answered all the purposes of law. It was so excellent, that if it had been possible that men could be justified by law at all, that was the law by which it would have been done. But it was not possible. The effect of the law, therefore, was to show that all men were sinners, and to shut them up to the plan of justification by the work of a Redeemer. It was appointed, therefore, not to justify men, but to lead them to the Saviour, Ga 3:21-24.

(8.) The effect of the plan of justification by faith in the Lord Jesus was to make the mind free. It was no longer under a schoolmaster. They who are justified in this way become the children of God. They all become one in the Redeemer. There is neither Jew nor Greek, but they constitute one great family, and are the children of Abraham, and heirs according to the promise, Ga 3:25-29.

Verse 1. O foolish Galatians. That is, foolish for having yielded to the influence of the false teachers, and for having embraced doctrines that tended to subvert the gospel of the Redeemer. The original word here used anohtai denotes void of understanding; and they had shown it in a remarkable manner in rejecting the doctrine of the apostles, and in embracing the errors into which they had fallen. It will be remembered that this is an expression similar to what was applied to them by others. See the Introduction, § I. Thus Callimachus, in his hymns, calls them "a foolish people," and Hillary, himself a Gaul, calls them Gallos indociles—expressions remarkably in accordance with that used here by Paul. It is implied that they were without stability of character. The particular thing to which Paul refers here is, that they were so easily led astray by the arguments of the false teachers.

Who hath bewitched you. The word here used ebaskane properly means, to prate about any one; and then to mislead by preterites, as if by magic arts; to fascinate; to influence by a charm. The idea here is, that they had not been led by reason and by sober judgment, but that there must have been some charm or fascination to have taken them away in this manner from what they had embraced as true, and what they had the fullest evidence was true. Paul had sufficient confidence in them to believe that they had not embraced their present views under the unbiased influence of judgment and reason, but that there must have been some fascination or charm by which it was done. It was, in fact, accomplished by the arts and the plausible pretences of those who came from among the Jews.

That ye should not obey the truth. The truth of the gospel. That you should yield your minds to falsehood and error. It should be observed, however, that this phrase is wanting in many MSS. It is omitted in the Syriac version; and many of the most important Greek and Latin Fathers omit it. Mill thinks it should be omitted; and Griesbach has omitted it. It is not essential to the passage in order to the sense; and it conveys no truth which is not elsewhere taught fully. It is apparently added to show what was the effect of their being bewitched or enchanted.

Before whose eyes. In whose very presence. That is, it has been done so clearly that you may be said to have seen it.

Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth. By the preaching of the gospel. He has been so fully and plainly preached that you may be said to have seen him. The effect of his being preached in the manner in which it has been done, ought to have been as great as if you had seen him crucified before your eyes. The word rendered "hath been evidently set forth," proegrafh properly, to write before and then to announce beforehand in writing; or to announce by posting up on a tablet. The meaning here is, probably, that Christ had been announced among them crucified, as if the doctrine was set forth in a public written tablet.—Robinson's Lex. There was the utmost clearness and distinctness of view, so that they need not make any mistake in regard to him. The Syriac renders it, "Christ has been crucified before your eyes as if he had been represented by painting." According to this, the idea is, that it was as plain as if there had been a representation of him by a picture. This has been done chiefly by preaching. I see no reason, however, to doubt that Paul means also to include the celebration of the Lord's Supper, in which the Lord Jesus is so clearly exhibited as a crucified Saviour.

Crucified among you? That is, represented among you as crucified. The words "among you," however, are wanting in many MSS., and obscure the sense. If they are to be retained, the meaning is, that the representations of the Lord Jesus, as crucified, had been as clear and impressive among them as if they had seen him with their own eyes. The argument is, that they had so clear a representation of the Lord Jesus, and of the design of his death, that it was strange that they had so soon been perverted from the belief of it. Had they seen the Saviour crucified; had they stood by the cross and witnessed his agony in death on account of sin, how could they doubt what was the design of his dying, and how could they be seduced from faith in his death, or be led to embrace any other method of justification? How could they now do it, when, although they had not seen him die, they had the fullest knowledge of the object for which he gave his precious life? The doctrine taught in this verse is, that a faithful exhibition of the sufferings and death of the Saviour ought to exert an influence over our minds and-hearts as if we had seen him die; and that they to whom such an exhibition has been made should avoid being led astray by the blandishments of false doctrines, and by the arts of man. Had we seen the Saviour expire, we could never have forgotten the scene. Let us endeavour to cherish a remembrance of his sufferings and death as if we had seen him die.

{a} "Galatians" Mt 7:26 {*} "bewitched" "Imposed on" {b} "you" Ga 5:7

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