World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
Law or Faith
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! 2The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? 3Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? 4Did you experience so much for nothing?—if it really was for nothing. 5Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?
6 Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” 7so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. 8And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.” 9For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.
10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.” 11Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” 12But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, “Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.” 13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— 14in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
The Promise to Abraham
15 Brothers and sisters, I give an example from daily life: once a person’s will has been ratified, no one adds to it or annuls it. 16Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say, “And to offsprings,” as of many; but it says, “And to your offspring,” that is, to one person, who is Christ. 17My point is this: the law, which came four hundred thirty years later, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18For if the inheritance comes from the law, it no longer comes from the promise; but God granted it to Abraham through the promise.
The Purpose of the Law
19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring would come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained through angels by a mediator. 20Now a mediator involves more than one party; but God is one.
21 Is the law then opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law. 22But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
Ga 3:1-29. Reproof of the Galatians for Abandoning Faith for Legalism. Justification by Faith Vindicated: The Law Shown to Be Subsequent to the Promise: Believers Are the Spiritual Seed of Abraham, Who Was Justified by Faith. The Law Was Our Schoolmaster to Bring Us to Christ, that We Might Become Children of God by Faith.
1. that ye should not obey the truth—omitted in the oldest manuscripts.
bewitched—fascinated you so that you have lost your wits. Themistius says the Galatians were naturally very acute in intellect. Hence, Paul wonders they could be so misled in this case.
you—emphatical. "You, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been graphically set forth (literally, in writing, namely, by vivid portraiture in preaching) among you, crucified" (so the sense and Greek order require rather than English Version). As Christ was "crucified," so ye ought to have been by faith "crucified with Christ," and so "dead to the law" (Ga 2:19, 20). Reference to the "eyes" is appropriate, as fascination was supposed to be exercised through the eyes. The sight of Christ crucified ought to have been enough to counteract all fascination.
2. "Was it by the works of the law that ye received the Spirit (manifested by outward miracles, Ga 3:5; Mr 16:17; Heb 2:4; and by spiritual graces, Ga 3:14; Ga 4:5, 6; Eph 1:13), or by the hearing of faith?" The "only" implies, "I desire, omitting other arguments, to rest the question on this alone"; I who was your teacher, desire now to "learn" this one thing from you. The epithet "Holy" is not prefixed to "Spirit" because that epithet is a joyous one, whereas this Epistle is stern and reproving [Bengel].
3. begun—the Christian life (Php 1:6).
in the Spirit—Not merely was Christ crucified "graphically set forth" in my preaching, but also "the Spirit" confirmed the word preached, by imparting His spiritual gifts. "Having thus begun" with the receiving His spiritual gifts, "are ye now being made perfect" (so the Greek), that is, are ye seeking to be made perfect with "fleshly" ordinances of the law? [Estius]. Compare Ro 2:28; Php 3:3; Heb 9:10. Having begun in the Spirit, that is, the Holy Spirit ruling your spiritual life as its "essence and active principle" [Ellicott], in contrast to "the flesh," the element in which the law works [Alford]. Having begun your Christianity in the Spirit, that is, in the divine life that proceeds from faith, are ye seeking after something higher still (the perfecting of your Christianity) in the sensuous and the earthly, which cannot possibly elevate the inner life of the Spirit, namely, outward ceremonies? [Neander]. No doubt the Galatians thought that they were going more deeply into the Spirit; for the flesh may be easily mistaken for the Spirit, even by those who have made progress, unless they continue to maintain a pure faith [Bengel].
4. Have ye suffered so many things—namely, persecution from Jews and from unbelieving fellow countrymen, incited by the Jews, at the time of your conversion.
in vain—fruitlessly, needlessly, since ye might have avoided them by professing Judaism [Grotius]. Or, shall ye, by falling from grace, lose the reward promised for all your sufferings, so that they shall be "in vain" (Ga 4:11; 1Co 15:2, 17-19, 29-32; 2Th 1:5-7; 2Jo 8)?
yet—rather, "If it be really (or 'indeed') in vain" [Ellicott]. "If, as it must be, what I have said, 'in vain,' is really the fact" [Alford]. I prefer understanding it as a mitigation of the preceding words. I hope better things of you, for I trust you will return from legalism to grace; if so, as I confidently expect, you will not have "suffered so many things in vain" [Estius]. For "God has given you the Spirit and has wrought mighty works among you" (Ga 3:5; Heb 10:32-36) [Bengel].
5. He … that ministereth—or "supplieth," God (2Co 9:10). He who supplied and supplies to you the Spirit still, to the present time. These miracles do not prove grace to be in the heart (Mr 9:38, 39). He speaks of these miracles as a matter of unquestioned notoriety among those addressed; an undesigned proof of their genuineness (compare 1Co 12:1-31).
doeth he it by the works of the law—that is, as a consequence resulting from (so the Greek) the works of the law (compare Ga 3:2). This cannot be because the law was then unknown to you when you received those gifts of the Spirit.
6. The answer to the question in Ga 3:5 is here taken for granted, It was by the hearing of faith: following this up, he says, "Even as Abraham believed," &c. (Ge 15:4-6; Ro 4:3). God supplies unto you the Spirit as the result of faith, not works, just as Abraham obtained justification by faith, not by works (Ga 3:6, 8, 16; Ga 4:22, 26, 28). Where justification is, there the Spirit is, so that if the former comes by faith, the latter must also.
7. they which are of faith—as the source and starting-point of their spiritual life. The same phrase is in the Greek of Ro 3:26.
the same—these, and these alone, to the exclusion of all the other descendants of Abraham.
children—Greek, "sons" (Ga 3:29).
8. And—Greek, "Moreover."
foreseeing—One great excellency of Scripture is, that in it all points liable ever to be controverted, are, with prescient wisdom, decided in the most appropriate language.
would justify—rather, "justifieth." Present indicative. It is now, and at all times, God's one way of justification.
the heathen—rather, "the Gentiles"; or "the nations," as the same Greek is translated at the end of the verse. God justifieth the Jews, too, "by faith, not by works." But he specifies the Gentiles in particular here, as it was their case that was in question, the Galatians being Gentiles.
preached before the gospel—"announced beforehand the Gospel." For the "promise" was substantially the Gospel by anticipation. Compare Joh 8:56; Heb 4:2. A proof that "the old fathers did not look only for transitory promises" [Article VII, Church of England]. Thus the Gospel, in its essential germ, is older than the law though the full development of the former is subsequent to the latter.
In thee—not "in thy seed," which is a point not here raised; but strictly "in thee," as followers of thy faith, it having first shown the way to justification before God [Alford]; or "in thee," as Father of the promised seed, namely, Christ (Ga 3:16), who is the Object of faith (Ge 22:18; Ps 72:17), and imitating thy faith (see on Ga 3:9).
be blessed—an act of grace, not something earned by works. The blessing of justification was to Abraham by faith in the promise, not by works. So to those who follow Abraham, the father of the faithful, the blessing, that is, justification, comes purely by faith in Him who is the subject of the promise.
9. they—and they alone.
of faith—(See on Ga 3:7, beginning).
faithful—implying what it is in which they are "blessed together with him," namely, faith, the prominent feature of his character, and of which the result to all who like him have it, is justification.
10. Confirmation of Ga 3:9. They who depend on the works of the law cannot share the blessing, for they are under the curse "written," De 27:26, Septuagint. Perfect obedience is required by the words, "in all things." Continual obedience by the word, "continueth." No man renders this obedience (compare Ro 3:19, 20). It is observable, Paul quotes Scripture to the Jews who were conversant with it, as in Epistle to the Hebrews, as said or spoken; but to the Gentiles, as written. So Matthew, writing for Jews, quotes it as "said," or "spoken"; Mark and Luke, writing for Gentiles, as "written" (Mt 1:22; Mr 1:2; Lu 2:22, 23) [Townson].
11. by the law—Greek, "IN the law." Both in and by are included. The syllogism in this verse and Ga 3:12, is, according to Scripture, "The just shall live by faith." But the law is not of faith, but of doing, or works (that is, does not make faith, but works, the conditional ground of justifying). Therefore "in," or "by the law, no man is justified before God" (whatever the case may be before men, Ro 4:2)—not even if he could, which he cannot, keep the law, because the Scripture element and conditional mean of justification is faith.
The just shall live by faith—(Ro 1:17; Hab 2:4). Not as Bengel and Alford, "He who is just by faith shall live." The Greek supports English Version. Also the contrast is between "live by faith" (namely, as the ground and source of his justification), and "live in them," namely, in his doings or works (Ga 3:12), as the conditional element wherein he is justified.
13. Abrupt exclamation, as he breaks away impatiently from those who would involve us again in the curse of the law, by seeking justification in it, to "Christ," who "has redeemed us from its curse." The "us" refers primarily to the Jews, to whom the law principally appertained, in contrast to "the Gentiles" (Ga 3:14; compare Ga 4:3, 4). But it is not restricted solely to the Jews, as Alford thinks; for these are the representative people of the world at large, and their "law" is the embodiment of what God requires of the whole world. The curse of its non-fulfilment affects the Gentiles through the Jews; for the law represents that righteousness which God requires of all, and which, since the Jews failed to fulfil, the Gentiles are equally unable to fulfil. Ga 3:10, "As many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse," refers plainly, not to the Jews only, but to all, even Gentiles (as the Galatians), who seek justification by the law. The Jews' law represents the universal law which condemned the Gentiles, though with less clear consciousness on their part (Ro 2:1-29). The revelation of God's "wrath" by the law of conscience, in some degree prepared the Gentiles for appreciating redemption through Christ when revealed. The curse had to be removed from off the heathen, too, as well as the Jews, in order that the blessing, through Abraham, might flow to them. Accordingly, the "we," in "that we might receive the promise of the Spirit," plainly refers to both Jews and Gentiles.
redeemed us—bought us off from our former bondage (Ga 4:5), and "from the curse" under which all lie who trust to the law and the works of the law for justification. The Gentile Galatians, by putting themselves under the law, were involving themselves in the curse from which Christ has redeemed the Jews primarily, and through them the Gentiles. The ransom price He paid was His own precious blood (1Pe 1:18, 19; compare Mt 20:28; Ac 20:28; 1Co 6:20; 7:23; 1Ti 2:6; 2Pe 2:1; Re 5:9).
being made—Greek, "having become."
a curse for us—Having become what we were, in our behalf, "a curse," that we might cease to be a curse. Not merely accursed (in the concrete), but a curse in the abstract, bearing the universal curse of the whole human race. So 2Co 5:21, "Sin for us," not sinful, but bearing the whole sin of our race, regarded as one vast aggregate of sin. See Note there. "Anathema" means "set apart to God," to His glory, but to the person's own destruction. "Curse," an execration.
written—(De 21:23). Christ's bearing the particular curse of hanging on the tree, is a sample of the "general" curse which He representatively bore. Not that the Jews put to death malefactors by hanging; but after having put them to death otherwise, in order to brand them with peculiar ignominy, they hung the bodies on a tree, and such malefactors were accursed by the law (compare Ac 5:30; 10:39). God's providence ordered it so that to fulfil the prophecy of the curse and other prophecies, Jesus should be crucified, and so hang on the tree, though that death was not a Jewish mode of execution. The Jews accordingly, in contempt, call Him Tolvi, "the hanged one," and Christians, "worshippers of the hanged one"; and make it their great objection that He died the accursed death [Trypho, in Justin Martyr, p. 249] (1Pe 2:24). Hung between heaven and earth as though unworthy of either!
14. The intent of "Christ becoming a curse for us"; "To the end that upon the Gentiles the blessing of Abraham (that is, promised to Abraham, namely, justification by faith) might come in Christ Jesus" (compare Ga 3:8).
that we might receive the promise of the Spirit—the promised Spirit (Joe 2:28, 29; Lu 24:49). This clause follows not the clause immediately preceding (for our receiving the Spirit is not the result of the blessing of Abraham coming on the Gentiles), but "Christ hath redeemed us," &c.
through faith—not by works. Here he resumes the thought in Ga 3:2. "The Spirit from without, kindles within us some spark of faith Whereby we lay hold of Christ, and even of the Spirit Himself, that He may dwell within us" [Flacius].
15. I speak after the manner of men—I take an illustration from a merely human transaction of everyday occurrence.
but a man's covenant—whose purpose it is far less important to maintain.
if it be confirmed—when once it hath been ratified.
no man disannulleth—"none setteth aside," not even the author himself, much less any second party. None does so who acts in common equity. Much less would the righteous God do so. The law is here, by personification, regarded as a second person, distinct from, and subsequent to, the promise of God. The promise is everlasting, and more peculiarly belongs to God. The law is regarded as something extraneous, afterwards introduced, exceptional and temporary (Ga 3:17-19, 21-24).
addeth—None addeth new conditions "making" the covenant "of none effect" (Ga 3:17). So legal Judaism could make no alteration in the fundamental relation between God and man, already established by the promises to Abraham; it could not add as a new condition the observance of the law, in which case the fulfilment of the promise would be attached to a condition impossible for man to perform. The "covenant" here is one of free grace, a promise afterwards carried into effect in the Gospel.
16. This verse is parenthetical. The covenant of promise was not "spoken" (so Greek for "made") to Abraham alone, but "to Abraham and his seed"; to the latter especially; and this means Christ (and that which is inseparable from Him, the literal Israel, and the spiritual, His body, the Church). Christ not having come when the law was given, the covenant could not have been then fulfilled, but awaited the coming of Him, the Seed, to whom it was spoken.
promises—plural, because the same promise was often repeated (Ge 12:3, 7; 15:5, 18; 17:7; 22:18), and because it involved many things; earthly blessings to the literal children of Abraham in Canaan, and spiritual and heavenly blessings to his spiritual children; but both promised to Christ, "the Seed" and representative Head of the literal and spiritual Israel alike. In the spiritual seed there is no distinction of Jew or Greek; but to the literal seed, the promises still in part remain to be fulfilled (Ro 11:26). The covenant was not made with "many" seeds (which if there had been, a pretext might exist for supposing there was one seed before the law, another under the law; and that those sprung from one seed, say the Jewish, are admitted on different terms, and with a higher degree of acceptability, than those sprung from the Gentile seed), but with the one seed; therefore, the promise that in Him "all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Ge 12:3), joins in this one Seed, Christ, Jew and Gentile, as fellow heirs on the same terms of acceptability, namely, by grace through faith (Ro 4:13); not to some by promise, to others by the law, but to all alike, circumcised and uncircumcised, constituting but one seed in Christ (Ro 4:16). The law, on the other hand, contemplates the Jews and Gentiles as distinct seeds. God makes a covenant, but it is one of promise; whereas the law is a covenant of works. Whereas the law brings in a mediator, a third party (Ga 3:19, 20), God makes His covenant of promise with the one seed, Christ (Ge 17:7), and embraces others only as they are identified with, and represented by, Christ.
one … Christ—not in the exclusive sense, the man Christ Jesus, but "Christ" (Jesus is not added, which would limit the meaning), including His people who are part of Himself, the Second Adam, and Head of redeemed humanity. Ga 3:28, 29 prove this, "Ye are all ONE in Christ Jesus" (Jesus is added here as the person is indicated). "And if ye be Christ's, ye are Abraham's SEED, heirs according to the promise."
17. this I say—"this is what I mean," by what I said in Ga 3:15.
continued … of God—"ratified by God" (Ga 3:15).
in Christ—rather, "unto Christ" (compare Ga 3:16). However, Vulgate and the old Italian versions translate as English Version. But the oldest manuscripts omit the words altogether.
the law which was—Greek, "which came into existence four hundred thirty years after" (Ex 12:40, 41). He does not, as in the case of "the covenant," add "enacted by God" (Joh 1:17). The dispensation of "the promise" began with the call of Abraham from Ur into Canaan, and ended on the last night of his grandson Jacob's sojourn in Canaan, the land of promise. The dispensation of the law, which engenders bondage, was beginning to draw on from the time of his entrance into Egypt, the land of bondage. It was to Christ in him, as in his grandfather Abraham, and his father Isaac, not to him or them as persons, the promise was spoken. On the day following the last repetition of the promise orally (Ge 46:1-6), at Beer-sheba, Israel passed into Egypt. It is from the end, not from the beginning of the dispensation of promise, that the interval of four hundred thirty years between it and the law is to be counted. At Beer-sheba, after the covenant with Abimelech, Abraham called on the everlasting God, and the well was confirmed to him and his seed as an everlasting possession. Here God appeared to Isaac. Here Jacob received the promise of the blessing, for which God had called Abraham out of Ur, repeated for the last time, on the last night of his sojourn in the land of promise.
cannot—Greek, "doth not disannul."
make … of none effect—The promise would become so, if the power of conferring the inheritance be transferred from it to the law (Ro 4:14).
18. the inheritance—all the blessings to be inherited by Abraham's literal and spiritual children, according to the promise made to him and to his Seed, Christ, justification and glorification (Ga 4:7; Ro 8:17; 1Co 6:9).
but God, &c.—The Greek order requires rather, "But to Abraham it was by promise that God hath given it." The conclusion is, Therefore the inheritance is not of, or from the law (Ro 4:14).
19. "Wherefore then serveth the law?" as it is of no avail for justification, is it either useless, or contrary to the covenant of God? [Calvin].
added—to the original covenant of promise. This is not inconsistent with Ga 3:15, "No man addeth thereto"; for there the kind of addition meant, and therefore denied, is one that would add new conditions, inconsistent with the grace of the covenant of promise. The law, though misunderstood by the Judaizers as doing so, was really added for a different purpose, namely, "because of (or as the Greek, 'for the sake of') the transgressions," that is, to bring out into clearer view the transgressions of it (Ro 7:7-9); to make men more fully conscious of their "sins," by being perceived as transgressions of the law, and so to make them long for the promised Saviour. This accords with Ga 3:23, 24; Ro 4:15. The meaning can hardly be "to check transgressions," for the law rather stimulates the corrupt heart to disobey it (Ro 5:20; 7:13).
till the seed—during the period up to the time when the seed came. The law was a preparatory dispensation for the Jewish nation (Ro 5:20; Greek, "the law came in additionally and incidentally"), intervening between the promise and its fulfilment in Christ.
come—(Compare "faith came," Ga 3:23).
the promise—(Ro 4:21).
ordained—Greek, "constituted" or "disposed."
by angels—as the instrumental enactors of the law [Alford] God delegated the law to angels as something rather alien to Him and severe (Ac 7:53; Heb 2:2, 3; compare De 33:2, "He came with ten thousands of saints," that is, angels, Ps 68:17). He reserved "the promise" to Himself and dispensed it according to His own goodness.
in the hand of a mediator—namely, Moses. De 5:5, "I stood between the Lord and you": the very definition of a mediator. Hence the phrase often recurs, "By the hand of Moses." In the giving of the law, the "angels" were representatives of God; Moses, as mediator, represented the people.
20. "Now a mediator cannot be of one (but must be of two parties whom he mediates between); but God is one" (not two: owing to His essential unity not admitting of an intervening party between Him and those to be blessed; but as the One Sovereign, His own representative, giving the blessing directly by promise to Abraham, and, in its fulfilment, to Christ, "the Seed," without new condition, and without a mediator such as the law had). The conclusion understood is, Therefore a mediator cannot appertain to God; and consequently, the law, with its inseparable appendage of a mediator, cannot be the normal way of dealing of God, the one, and unchangeable God, who dealt with Abraham by direct promise, as a sovereign, not as one forming a compact with another party, with conditions and a mediator attached thereto. God would bring man into immediate communion with Him, and not have man separated from Him by a mediator that keeps back from access, as Moses and the legal priesthood did (Ex 19:12, 13, 17, 21-24; Heb 12:19-24). The law that thus interposed a mediator and conditions between man and God, was an exceptional state limited to the Jews, and parenthetically preparatory to the Gospel, God's normal mode of dealing, as He dealt with Abraham, namely, face to face directly; by promise and grace, and not conditions; to all nations united by faith in the one seed (Eph 2:14, 16, 18), and not to one people to the exclusion and severance from the One common Father, of all other nations. It is no objection to this view, that the Gospel, too, has a mediator (1Ti 2:5). For Jesus is not a mediator separating the two parties in the covenant of promise or grace, as Moses did, but One in both nature and office with both God and man (compare "God in Christ," Ga 3:17): representing the whole universal manhood (1Co 15:22, 45, 47), and also bearing in Him "all the fulness of the Godhead." Even His mediatorial office is to cease when its purpose of reconciling all things to God shall have been accomplished (1Co 15:24); and God's ONENESS (Zec 14:9), as "all in all," shall be fully manifested. Compare Joh 1:17, where the two mediators—Moses, the severing mediator of legal conditions, and Jesus, the uniting mediator of grace—are contrasted. The Jews began their worship by reciting the Schemah, opening thus, "Jehovah our God is ONE Jehovah"; which words their Rabbis (as Jarchius) interpret as teaching not only the unity of God, but the future universality of His Kingdom on earth (Zep 3:9). Paul (Ro 3:30) infers the same truth from the ONENESS of God (compare Eph 4:4-6). He, as being One, unites all believers, without distinction, to Himself (Ga 3:8, 16, 28; Eph 1:10; 2:14; compare Heb 2:11) in direct communion. The unity of God involves the unity of the people of God, and also His dealing directly without intervention of a mediator.
21. "Is the law (which involves a mediator) against the promises of God (which are without a mediator, and rest on God alone and immediately)? God forbid."
life—The law, as an externally prescribed rule, can never internally impart spiritual life to men naturally dead in sin, and change the disposition. If the law had been a law capable of giving life, "verily (in very reality, and not in the mere fancy of legalists) righteousness would have been by the law (for where life is, there righteousness, its condition, must also be)." But the law does not pretend to give life, and therefore not righteousness; so there is no opposition between the law and the promise. Righteousness can only come through the promise to Abraham, and through its fulfilment in the Gospel of grace.
22. But—as the law cannot give life or righteousness [Alford]. Or the "But" means, So far is righteousness from being of the law, that the knowledge of sin is rather what comes of the law [Bengel].
the scripture—which began to be written after the time of the promise, at the time when the law was given. The written letter was needed SO as PERMANENTLY to convict man of disobedience to God's command. Therefore he says, "the Scripture," not the "Law." Compare Ga 3:8, "Scripture," for "the God of the Scripture."
concluded—"shut up," under condemnation, as in a prison. Compare Isa 24:22, "As prisoners gathered in the pit and shut up in the prison." Beautifully contrasted with "the liberty wherewith Christ makes free," which follows, Ga 3:7, 9, 25, 26; 5:1; Isa 61:1.
all—Greek neuter, "the universe of things": the whole world, man, and all that appertains to him.
the promise—the inheritance promised (Ga 3:18).
by faith of Jesus Christ—that is which is by faith in Jesus Christ.
might be given—The emphasis is on "given": that it might be a free gift; not something earned by the works of the law (Ro 6:23).
to them that believe—to them that have "the faith of (in) Jesus Christ" just spoken of.
23. faith—namely, that just mentioned (Ga 3:22), of which Christ is the object.
which should afterwards, &c.—"which was afterwards to be revealed."
24. "So that the law hath been (that is, hath turned out to be) our schoolmaster (or "tutor," literally, "pedagogue": this term, among the Greeks, meant a faithful servant entrusted with the care of the boy from childhood to puberty, to keep him from evil, physical and moral, and accompany him to his amusements and studies) to guide us unto Christ," with whom we are no longer "shut up" in bondage, but are freemen. "Children" (literally, infants) need such tutoring (Ga 4:3).
might be—rather, "that we may be justified by faith"; which we could not be till Christ, the object of faith, had come. Meanwhile the law, by outwardly checking the sinful propensity which was constantly giving fresh proof of its refractoriness—as thus the consciousness of the power of the sinful principle became more vivid, and hence the sense of need both of forgiveness of sin and freedom from its bondage was awakened—the law became a "schoolmaster to guide us unto Christ" [Neander]. The moral law shows us what we ought to do, and so we learn our inability to do it. In the ceremonial law we seek, by animal sacrifices, to answer for our not having done it, but find dead victims no satisfaction for the sins of living men, and that outward purifying will not cleanse the soul; and that therefore we need an infinitely better Sacrifice, the antitype of all the legal sacrifices. Thus delivered up to the judicial law, we see how awful is the doom we deserve: thus the law at last leads us to Christ, with whom we find righteousness and peace. "Sin, sin! is the word heard again and again in the Old Testament. Had it not there for centuries rung in the ear, and fastened on the conscience, the joyful sound, "grace for grace," would not have been the watchword of the New Testament. This was the end of the whole system of sacrifices" [Tholuck].
25. "But now that faith is come," &c. Moses the lawgiver cannot bring us into the heavenly Canaan though he can bring us to the border of it. At that point he is superseded by Joshua, the type of Jesus, who leads the true Israel into their inheritance. The law leads us to Christ, and there its office ceases.
26. children—Greek, "sons."
by—Greek, "through faith." "Ye all" (Jews and Gentiles alike) are no longer "children" requiring a tutor, but SONS emancipated and walking at liberty.
27. baptized into Christ—(Ro 6:3).
have put on Christ—Ye did, in that very act of being baptized into Christ, put on, or clothe yourselves with, Christ: so the Greek expresses. Christ is to you the toga virilis (the Roman garment of the full-grown man, assumed when ceasing to be a child) [Bengel]. Gataker defines a Christian, "One who has put on Christ." The argument is, By baptism ye have put on Christ; and therefore, He being the Son of God, ye become sons by adoption, by virtue of His Sonship by generation. This proves that baptism, where it answers to its ideal, is not a mere empty sign, but a means of spiritual transference from the state of legal condemnation to that of living union with Christ, and of sonship through Him in relation to God (Ro 13:14). Christ alone can, by baptizing with His Spirit, make the inward grace correspond to the outward sign. But as He promises the blessing in the faithful use of the means, the Church has rightly presumed, in charity, that such is the case, nothing appearing to the contrary.
neither male nor female—rather, as Greek, "there is not male and female." There is no distinction into male and female. Difference of sex makes no difference in Christian privileges. But under the law the male sex had great privileges. Males alone had in their body circumcision, the sign of the covenant (contrast baptism applied to male and female alike); they alone were capable of being kings and priests, whereas all of either sex are now "kings and priests unto God" (Re 1:6); they had prior right to inheritances. In the resurrection the relation of the sexes shall cease (Lu 20:35).
one—Greek, "one man"; masculine, not neuter, namely "one new man" in Christ (Eph 2:15).
29. and heirs—The oldest manuscripts omit "and." Christ is "Abraham's seed" (Ga 3:16): ye are "one in Christ" (Ga 3:28), and one with Christ, as having "put on Christ" (Ga 3:27); therefore YE are "Abraham's seed," which is tantamount to saying (whence the "and" is omitted), ye are "heirs according to the promise" (not "by the law," Ga 3:18); for it was to Abraham's seed that the inheritance was promised (Ga 3:16). Thus he arrives at the same truth which he set out with (Ga 3:7). But one new "seed" of a righteous succession could be found. One single faultless grain of human nature was found by God Himself, the source of a new and imperishable seed: "the seed" (Ps 22:30) who receive from Him a new nature and name (Ge 3:15; Isa 53:10, 11; Joh 12:24). In Him the lineal descent from David becomes extinct. He died without posterity. But He lives and shall reign on David's throne. No one has a legal claim to sit upon it but Himself, He being the only living direct representative (Eze 21:27). His spiritual seed derive their birth from the travail of His soul, being born again of His word, which is the incorruptible seed (Joh 1:12; Ro 9:8; 1Pe 1:23).