INTRODUCTION TO GALATIANS CHAPTER 3
In this chapter Paul:
I. Reproves the Galatians for their folly, in suffering themselves to be drawn away from the faith of the gospel, and endeavors, from several considerations,
to impress them with a sense of it.
II. He proves the doctrine which he had reproved them for departing from–that of justification by faith without the works of the law,
From the example of Abraham's justification.
A. From the nature of the law itself.
B. From the express testimony of the Old Testament; and,
C. From the stability of the covenant of God with Abraham. Lest any should hereupon say, “Wherefore then serveth the law?” he answers,
1. It was added because of transgressions.
2. It was given to convince the world of the necessity of a Savior.
3. It was designed as a schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ.
And then he concludes the chapter by acquainting us with the privilege of Christians under the gospel state.
Paul, 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 now proceeds to more fully state 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 consists of the following subjects:–
1. His reproof of the Galatians for having been so easily seduced, by the arts of cunning men, from the simplicity of the gospel, (v. 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, (vv. 2-6). Particularly the Holy Spirit, with all His miraculous and converting and sanctifying influences, had been imparted only in connection 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. He refers to the case of Abraham to illustrate the doctrine of Justification by Faith, and in proof of the truth of it, and he shows that he was justified in this manner, and that the Scripture had promised that others would be justified in the same way, (vv. 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 the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles, and they all might be saved in the same manner that he was, (vv. 10-14).
5. He confirms this view 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, (vv. 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, (vv. 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 Savior, (vv. 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, (vv. 25-29).
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.