Justification Belongeth to Abraham's Children by Faith.
SUMMARY.--The Spirit Imparted to Galatian Christians
Through the Gospel.
This, too, Before They Knew of the Works of the Law.
Abraham Justified by Faith, While Yet Uncircumcised.
Those of All Nations, Who Believe, Blessed With Abraham.
All Condemned by the Law Since All Are Sinners.
Christ, Whom It Slew, Redeemed Us from Its Curse.
The Covenant With Abraham Which Included the Gentiles Made Before the Law.
The Law Cannot Disannul It.
It Included Christ.
All Believers Having Put on Christ, the Seed of Abraham, Become
1-5. Who hath bewitched you? That they, Gentiles, instructed in
the gospel, should virtually deny Christ's death by seeking
justification by the law was inexplicable. Were they bewitched?
Before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth.
Paul, while among them, had so
faithfully and vividly preached Christ crucified, that it might be said
that he was pictured before their eyes. Yet, if they were justified by
the law, Christ was crucified in vain.
2. Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law? Let them
answer this. He had preached Christ to them, they had heard, believed
and obeyed; not a word was said of the works of the law; yet God had
acknowledged the work by imparting his Spirit.
3. Are ye so foolish? They had begun with a spiritual religion,
and received the Spirit. Did they expect to be made perfect by the
fleshly ordinances of the law?
4. Have ye suffered so many things in vain? If they turned from
the cross to the law for salvation, all that they had suffered for
Christ was in vain.
If it be indeed in vain. I take this to mean, "If it be possible
that you do turn to the law and make your sufferings vain."
5. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit. Did God
bestow spiritual gifts and miraculous powers among you as the result of
works of the law, or of
the hearing of faith? Were these bestowed through the law, or the
6-9. Even as Abraham believed God, etc. The Galatians would have
to reply to the questions of
"By the hearing of faith?" "Yes," says Paul, "Even as Abraham, who was
accepted as righteous by faith without the law." See
This passage is quoted in
Rom. 4:3, 9, 21, 22,
and in James 2:23.
7. Know ye therefore. Paul now states his great argument.
Abraham's faith made him righteous; he is the spiritual father of
believers. Those who believe upon Christ, the promised seed of Abraham,
are the spiritual children of Abraham and the heirs of the promise.
8. The Scripture, foreseeing. Looking forward to the salvation
of the heathen who believe on Christ.
Preached before the gospel unto Abraham. Announced it in
anticipation, in a great Messianic promise.
In thee shall, etc. See
Observe (1) that this promise is made to Abraham long before he was
circumcised. (2) It is a promise of a blessing for the Gentile nations
through him. (3) It is a promise of Christ, and hence the gospel in
promise before the law existed.
9. So then. Then this promise embraces Gentile believers. They
are blessed as believing Abraham was blessed. See
10-12. For as many as are of the works of the law. Having just
shown that believers through Christ are justified, he next shows that
all under the law are in condemnation.
It is written. See
Rom. 3:19, 20.
Not only those under the law fail of justification, but the curse rests
upon them, for all fail to obey all the things in the law. See
11. The just shall live
by faith. To seek righteousness by the law is also contrary to
the prophets, for
says that the just shall live by faith, not by the works of the
12. The law is not of faith. Is not a system of faith, but
proclaims life by
doing the law, rather than by faith. The quotation is from
But since none can keep it perfectly, all are under the curse
13, 14. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse. From the curse
of the law Christ hath redeemed us by suffering for us.
Being made a curse for us. He took our curse on himself and
suffered in our stead.
For it is written. In
1 Tim. 2:6; 1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23; Titus 2:14, etc.
14. That the blessing of Abraham. Christ took the curse upon
himself that we might be blessed with the believing Abraham
Hence Gentiles who believe have the promise of justification, and of
the Spirit. Compare
verses 2 and 5.
There it is shown that the Spirit came by the faith, rather than by the
15-18. I speak after the manner of men. I will make a comparison
with human affairs.
Though it be but a man's covenant, etc. A covenant, or
agreement, among men, after it is ratified, cannot be annulled or
altered without the consent of both parties.
16. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promise made. The
covenant with its promises was made with Abraham and his seed. There
were promises spoken on several occasion. See
Gen. 12:3, 7;
13:16; 15:5; 17:7.
The promises of the covenant were to the seed, as well as to Abraham,
and hence did not terminate with his death.
He saith not, To seeds, as of many, but . . . to thy
seed. This passage has excited much criticism. Many have thought
that Paul made a grammatical mistake. Even Luther says: "My dear
brother Paul, this argument won't stick." The criticism is that
sperma, the Greek word rendered "seed," is a collective noun and
may include all Abraham's descendants. Paul elsewhere shows that he
knew just the meaning of sperma
(Rom. 4:18; 9:7),
but the question here is not one of grammar, but of spiritual meaning.
Paul does not mean that sperma (seed) excludes plurality, but
that it implies unity. Not the word "children" or "descendants" is
used. This would embrace the children of Ishmael, of Esau, and of
Keturah. But there is a seed to whom the promise is given; a seed that
embraces many, but is one. That seed is Christ the head, and all in
1 Cor. 12:12.
The whole spiritual seed of Abraham concentrates in Christ. The promise
is to Christ and all in Christ. Paul understood Greek as well as his
critics, and also knew what he meant.
17. And this I say. He returns to the argument introduced in
That the covenant. He has just shown that this covenant was not
only with Abraham, but with his spiritual seed, and hence must continue
until Christ came. Hence the law, made over four centuries after the
covenant was given, could not disannul it. The covenant made with
Abraham is still in force.
Four hundred and thirty years. According to Usher's Chronology,
the promise was made to Abraham in B. C. 1921; the law was given
at Sinai B. C. 1491; the interval is 430 years. But some have held
that Paul made a mistake because in
it said that Hebrews were in Egypt 430 years. The matter is easily
explained. The Septuagint Version of the Old Testament is the one
usually followed by Christ and his apostles. Its translators, following
the Hebrew copy before them, render
"The sojourning of the children of Israel who dwelt in Egypt, and in
the land of Canaan, was four hundred and thirty years." Whether
this is right, or our Hebrew text, does not matter. Paul gave the
usually received statement. His point was simply that the law was given
many ages after the covenant with Abraham.
18. If the inheritance be of the law. Law and promise exclude
each other. The legal heir receives his inheritance by law, if there be
no will; one not a legal heir may receive it by the promise of a will.
The inheritance was given to Abraham by promise; and ours depends on
19-23. Wherefore then serveth the law? What was its object then?
It was added in order to restrain transgressions among men, and
especially among the fleshly race of Abraham, until the promised seed,
to whom the promise was made, even Christ, should come. It was
therefore only to last until that seed came.
Ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Communicated
through the means of angels to the mediator between Israel and God;
that is, to Moses. See
Heb. 2:2; Deut. 33:2, and Deut. 5:5.
20. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one. A mediator implies
two parties between whom he acts.
But God is one. The idea is that when God makes a promise by his
sovereign power no mediator is required. God acts alone. Thus it was
when the promises were made to Abraham. God, too, is One, the same,
always, and hence the law is not due to a change of the divine
21. Is the law then against the promises? No. The law does not
give life at all. If it did, and could impart righteousness, then it
might be said to be opposed to the promises of righteousness by
22. But. But none became righteous by the law. The Scriptures
place all under sin that the promise should be to them only who believe
through Christ. All hope is in the gospel. See
23. Kept under the law. Before the faith was revealed we were
confined under the law, as it were in prison, in a state of preparation
for the faith that was to
be revealed. The law was "added" (see
in order to do a work of preparation until the gospel was revealed.
24-29. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster. "Tutor," in the
Revision. In Roman families a trusted slave, a pedagogue, had
charge of children, preserved them from harm, and took them
to school. The law is such a tutor; not a schoolmaster, but a guide to
lead us to the school of Christ. There we are
justified by faith.
25. After that faith is come. When once brought to Christ we do
not need the tutor any longer. We are no longer under him.
26. For ye are all the children of God. Faith has come to all of
you. You are all God's children by faith in Christ. Hence you are
under the schoolmaster no longer.
27. For. He now shows how their faith acted to bring them into
Christ. As Dr. Schaff says, "Faith always implies surrender." Faith
leads to obedience. The believer is
baptized into Christ, and being found in him has
put on Christ. Being in Christ, a member of his body, a part of
the Son, the believer becomes a child of God. Compare
1 Cor. 10:2, and Matt. 28:19.
"The baptized is surrounded by Christ and covered by his merits.
. . . The figure of putting on Christ as a new dress
afterwards gave rise to the custom of wearing white baptismal
garments."--Schaff, in loco.
28. There is neither Jew nor Greek. In Christ the old, worldly
lines of separation are all blotted out.
All one. One person, as it were, "one new man"
of which Christ is the head. All, without regard to race, blended into
29. If ye be Christ's. As Christ is the seed of Abraham, all in
Christ become the spiritual seed of Abraham, and hence heirs of the
promise to Abraham's seed.
NOTE.--In the study of this Letter, it is well to
keep in mind that the term faith is used by Paul often in a
sense that means more than the act of belief. When it is put in
contrast with the law, it is used in the sense of The Faith,
that is, The Gospel. It comprehends what is believed, believing, and
the results of believing. The fact that the apostles so often places
the definite article before the word faith, so that in the Greek
he speaks of The Faith, leaves no doubt of his meaning. It is
unfortunate that the translators have obscured the meaning by omitting
the article. Thus in this chapter the Greek gives the definite article
before the word (the faith) five times where it is omitted in
the Common Version. The examples are
verse 23 (twice), verses 25 and 26.