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 Abraham's Children.
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 gospel?
6-9. Even as Abraham believed God, etc. The Galatians would have to reply to the questions of verse 5, "By the hearing of faith?" "Yes," says Paul, "Even as Abraham, who was accepted as righteous by faith without the law." See Gen. 15:6. 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 Gen. 12:3. 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 verse 6.
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 Deut. 27:26. Compare 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 Rom. 3:23. 11. The just shall live by faith. To seek righteousness by the law is also contrary to the prophets, for Habakkuk 2:4 says that the just shall live by faith, not by the works of the law. 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 Lev. 18:5. But since none can keep it perfectly, all are under the curse (verse 10).
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 Deut. 21:23. Compare Matt. 20:28; 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 (verse 6). 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 law.
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 Christ. See 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 verse 15. That the covenant. He has just shown that this covenant was not only with Abraham, but with his spiritual seed, and hence must continue in effect 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 Exod. 12:12 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 Exodus 12:12, "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 the promise.
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 Acts 7:53; 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 mind. 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 faith. 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 Rom. 11:32. 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 verse 19) 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 Rom. 6:3; 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" (Eph. 2:15), of which Christ is the head. All, without regard to race, blended into one whole. 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 14, verse 23 (twice), verses 25 and 26.