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3. Faith or Observance of the Law

1O foolish Galatians, who did bewitch you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth crucified? 2This only would I learn from you. Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now perfected in the flesh? 4Did ye suffer so many things in vain? if it be indeed in vain. 5He therefore that supplieth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 6Even as Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness. 7Know therefore that they that are of faith, the same are sons of Abraham. 8And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all the nations be blessed. 9So then they that are of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham. 10For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one who continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them. 11Now that no man is justified by the law before God, is evident: for, The righteous shall live by faith; 12and the law is not of faith; but, He that doeth them shall live in them. 13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: 14that upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. 15Brethren, I speak after the manner of men: Though it be but a man's covenant, yet when it hath been confirmed, no one maketh it void, or addeth thereto. 16Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. 17Now this I say: A covenant confirmed beforehand by God, the law, which came four hundred and thirty years after, doth not disannul, so as to make the promise of none effect. 18For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no more of promise: but God hath granted it to Abraham by promise. 19What then is the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise hath been made; and it was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator. 20Now a mediator is not a mediator of one; but God is one. 21Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could make alive, verily righteousness would have been of the law. 22But the scriptures shut up all things under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. 23But before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25But now faith that is come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus. 27For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ. 28There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus. 29And if ye are Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise.

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1. O foolish Galatians. An expostulation is here interwoven — I should rather say, inserted — amidst his doctrinal statements. Some will wonder that he did not delay it to the close of the Epistle, but the very serious nature of the errors which he has brought forward unquestionably roused him to a burst of passion. When we hear that the Son of God, with all his benefits, is rejected, that his death is esteemed as nothing, what pious mind would not break out into indignation? He therefore declares that those who allowed themselves to be involved in so heinous a crime must have been ἀνόητοι, that is, “disordered in mind.” He accuses them not only of having suffered themselves to be deceived, but of having been carried away by some sort of magical enchantment, 5454     “Βασκαίνειν, ‘to enchant, to fascinate, to delude by magical charms,’ — -rather an uncommon word, ἃπαξ λεγόμενον in the New Testament. It may amuse to notice the etumon of the word. Some grammarians have strangely thought it derived from φάεσι καίνειν, ‘to kill with the eyes.’ Its true etymology obviously is, βάω, βάσκω, βασκάω βασκαίνω. βάσκω (equivalent to φάσκω,), ‘to say, to speak,’ comes, in the form βασκαίνω, to signify κακολογεῖν, ‘to calumniate,’ then ‘to deceive,’ then ‘to deceive by magical arts.’” — Brown. which is a still more serious charge. He insinuates that their fall partook more of madness than of folly.

Some think that Paul refers to the temper of the nation, that, being sprung from barbarians, it was more difficult to train them; but I rather think that he refers to the subject itself. It looks like something supernatural, that, after enjoying the gospel in such clearness, they should be affected by the delusions of Satan. He does not merely say that they were “bewitched” and “disordered in mind,” because they did not obey the truth; but because, after having received instruction so clear, so full, so tender, and so powerful, they immediately fell away. Erasmus has chosen to interpret the words, “that ye should not believe the truth.” I am not quite prepared to set aside that rendering, but would prefer the word obey, because Paul does not charge them with having, from the outset, rejected the gospel, but with not having persevered in obedience.

Before whose eyes. This is intended, as I have already hinted, to express an aggravation; for, the better opportunities they had of knowing Christ, the more heinous was the criminality of forsaking him. Such, he tells them, was the clearness of his doctrine, that it was not naked doctrine, but the express, living image of Christ. 5555     Καὶ μὴν οὐκ ἐν τὣ Γαλατῶν χώρᾳ ἀλλ ᾿ ἐν ̔ιεροσολύμοις ἐσταυρώθν. Πῶς οὖν φησιν, ἐν ὑμῖν; Τὢς πίστεως δεικνὺς τὴν ἰσχυν καὶ τὰ πόρ᾿ῥωθεν δυναμένης ὁρᾷν. Καὶ οὐκ εἶπεν, ἐσταυρώθη ἀλλὰ προεγράθη ἐσταυρωμένος δηλῶν ὅτι τοῖς τὢς πίστεως ὀφθαλμοῖς ἀκριβέστερον ἐθεώρησαν τῶν παρόντων ἐνίων καὶ τὰ γινόμενα θεωμένων “Yet it was not in the country of the Galatians, but in Jerusalem, that he was crucified. How, then, does he say, ‘Among you?’ To demonstrate the power of faith, which is able to see even distant objects, And he does not say, ‘Was crucified,’ but ‘Was painted crucified,’ shewing that by the eyes of faith they beheld more distinctly than some who were present and saw the transactions.” — Chrysostom. They had known Christ in such a manner, that they might be almost said to have seen him.

Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth. Augustine’s interpretation of the word προεγράφη, (“hath been set forth,”) is harsh, and inconsistent with Paul’s design. He makes it to signify that Christ was to be thrust out from possession. Others propose a different phrase, (proscriptus,) which, if used in the sense of “openly proclaimed,” would not be inapplicable. The Greeks, accordingly, borrow from this verb the word προγράμματα, to denote boards on which property intended to be sold was published, so as to be exposed to the view of all. But the participle, painted, is less ambiguous, and, in my own opinion, is exceedingly appropriate. To shew how energetic his preaching was, Paul first compares it to a picture, which exhibited to them, in a lively manner, the image of Christ.

But, not satisfied with this comparison, he adds, Christ hath been crucified among you, intimating that the actual sight of Christ’s death could not have affected them more powerfully than his own preaching. The view given by some, that the Galatians had “crucified to themselves (Hebrews 6:6) the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame;” that they had withdrawn from the purity of the gospel; or, at least, had lent their ear, and given their confidence, to impostors who crucified him, — appears to me overstrained. The meaning therefore is, that Paul’s doctrine had instructed them concerning Christ in such a manner as if he had been exhibited to them in a picture, nay, “crucified among them.” Such a representation could not have been made by any eloquence, or by “enticing words of man’s wisdom,” (1 Corinthians 2:4,) had it not been accompanied by that power of the Spirit, of which Paul has treated largely in both the Epistles to the Corinthians.

Let those who would discharge aright the ministry of the gospel learn, not merely to speak and declaim, but to penetrate into the consciences of men, to make them see Christ crucified, and feel the shedding of his blood. 5656     “Display the sufferings of Christ like one who was an eye-witness of those sufferings, and hold up the blood, the precious blood of atonement, as issuing warm from the cross.” — Robert Hall. When the Church has painters such as these, she no longer needs the dead images of wood and stone, she no longer requires pictures; both of which, unquestionably, were first admitted to Christian temples when the pastors had become dumb and been converted into mere idols, or when they uttered a few words from the pulpit in such a cold and careless manner, that the power and efficacy of the ministry were utterly extinguished.

2. This one I wish to learn from you. He now proceeds to support his cause by additional arguments. The first is drawn from their experience, for he reminds them in what manner the gospel was introduced among themselves. When they heard the gospel, they received the Spirit. It was not to the law, therefore, but to faith, that they owed the reception of this benefit. This same argument is employed by Peter in the defense which he makes to his brethren for having baptized uncircumcised persons. (Acts 10:47.) Paul and Barnabas followed the same course in the debate which they maintained at Jerusalem on this subject. (Acts 15:2, 12.) There was therefore manifest ingratitude in not submitting to the doctrine, by means of which they had received the Holy Spirit. The opportunity which he gives them to reply is expressive not of doubt, but of greater confidence: for their convictions, founded on their own experience, forced them to acknowledge that it was true.

Faith is here put, by a figure of speech, for the gospel, which is elsewhere called “the law of faith,” (Romans 3:27,) because it exhibits to us the free grace of God in Christ, without any merit of works. The Spirit means here, I think, the grace of regeneration, which is common to all believers; though I have no objection to understand it as referring to the peculiar gifts by which the Lord, at that period, honored the preaching of the gospel. 5757     “Did ye receive that Spirit which was the fullest evidence of your being justified, accepted, and received as the children and people of God, by conformity to the law of Moses, or by embracing the doctrine of the gospel? If by embracing the doctrine of the gospel, then you became justified by embracing that doctrine, and consequently need not conform to the law of Moses, in order to obtain justification.” — Chandler.

It may be objected, that the Spirit was not, in this respect, given to all. But, it was enough for Paul’s purpose, that the Galatians knew that the power of the Holy Spirit in his Church had accompanied Paul’s doctrine, and that believers were variously endowed with the gifts of the Spirit for general edification. It may likewise be objected, that those gifts were not infallible signs of adoption, and so do not apply to the present question. I reply, that it was enough that the Lord had confirmed the doctrine of Paul by the visible gifts of his Spirit. A still simpler view of the case is, that they had been distinguished by the ordinary privilege of adoption, before those impostors had brought forward their additions. “In whom,” says he to the Ephesians,

“ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” (Ephesians 1:13.)

3. Are ye so foolish? Commentators are not agreed as to what he means by the Spirit and by the flesh. He alludes, in my opinion, to what he had said about the Spirit. As if he had said, “As the doctrine of the gospel brought to you the Holy Spirit, the commencement of your course was spiritual; but now ye have fallen into a worse condition, and may be said to have fallen from the Spirit into the flesh.” The flesh denotes either outward and fading flyings, such as ceremonies are, particularly when they are separated from Christ; or it denotes dead and fading doctrine. There was a strange inconsistency between their splendid commencement and their future progress.

4. Have ye suffered so many things? This is another argument. Having suffered so many things in behalf of the gospel, would they now, in an instant, lose it all? Nay, he puts it in the way of reproach, if they were willing to lose the advantage of so many illustrious struggles which they had made for the faith. If the true faith had not been delivered to them by Paul, it was rash to suffer anything in defense of a bad cause; but they had experienced the presence of God amidst their persecutions. Accordingly, he charges the false apostles with ill-will in depriving the Galatians of such valuable ornaments. But to mitigate the severity of this complaint, he adds, if it be yet in vain; thus inspiring their minds with the expectation of something better, and rousing them to the exercise of repentance. For the intention of all chastisement is, not to drive men to despair, but to lead them to a better course.

5. He therefore that ministereth. He is not now speaking of the grace of regeneration, but of the other gifts of the Spirit; for a subject different from the preceding one is manifestly introduced. He warns them that all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, in which they excelled, are the fruits of the gospel, of that gospel which had been preached among them by his own lips. Their new teachers deprived them of those gifts when they left the gospel, and fled to another kind of doctrine. In proportion to the value which they attached to those gifts, to which the apostle here adds miracles, they ought the more carefully and resolutely to adhere to the gospel.




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