The Epistle to the Galatians - Chapter 3. 1-14
William Trew, Cardiff
We have now reached the second of the three main sections of this Epistle.
CHAPTERS 3 AND 4
THE FULNESS OF CHRIST'S REDEMPTION TO DELIVER FROM THE CURSE, CONDEMNATION AND CAPTIVITY OF THE LAW
There are two particular references in this section to the work of redemption wrought out by Christ upon the cross. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made (having become) a curse for us", 3. 13; and "when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law". 4. 4-5. These two chapters also may be divided into three paragraphs:
1. The Mediation of Blessing from God, 3. 1-14. Three blessings are specifically mentioned.
Redemption from the curse of the law, v. 13.
The righteousness of God, w. 6, 8, 14.
The reception of the Spirit of God, vv. 2-5, 14.
But not one of these blessings has ever been assured to men as the reward of law keeping. Such blessings as these are vouchsafed to us by the rich grace of God, and we are brought into the happy possession of them as the result of our faith in Christ. How foolish these Galatians were! Who was really responsible for the dreadful error by which they had been deceived, so destructive of the truth of the Gospel in which they had once rejoiced? It was the witchery of Satan, as later the apostle told them, 5. 7-8. It was the more difficult to understand, because that, when the Gospel was preached to them at the first, it came with such fulness of spiritual power to their souls, that the message was living and effectual, so that, as it were, before their "eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified". That should have made such deep impressions upon their spirits that deception thereafter had been impossible. But we little know ourselves. How foolish we all are, in that so easily we allow the adversary to rob us of the enjoyment of our spiritual wealth in Christ. The doctrinal basis of the apostle's argument emphasizes three facts:
(a) The Miracles Accomplished in them and among them were Accomplished by the Spirit of God, as the Result of the Hearing of Faith, not by the Works of the Law, 3. 1-5. When he speaks of miracles accomplished among them, he is referring to the fact that such signs, demonstrating the power of God, accompanied the preaching of the Gospel in those days, authenticating the message as being of God. Such signs had evidently attested Paul's ministry. But the greatest miracle of all had been accomplished in them, in that each one of them had received the Spirit of God. "Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" That same miracle has been wrought in every one who has trusted Christ. "Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?"
(b) The Method that God has always used to Bring men into Blessing has been that of Faith, never the Works of the Law, 3. 6-12. That this is true is proved in two ways:
Personally and Representatively in Abraham, w. 6-9. "Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness". The blessing assured in Genesis 15. 5 was confirmed in Genesis 18.18; 22.18. It was the will of God that Gentiles as well as Hebrews, uncircumcised as well as circumcised, should be so blessed. Therefore God announced the glad tidings to Abraham that "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed". "So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham".
Prophetically, w. 10-12, in the message of the prophet Habakkuk long centuries after both Abraham and the giving of the law. It is from this prophet that Paul quotes the words, "The just shall live by faith"; see Hab. 2. 4. These words of the prophet are cited three times in the New Testament Scriptures, and it is important to note that the part of the sentence emphasized differs in each of its uses.
In Romans i. 17, the emphasis is upon "the just". In Hebrews 10. 38, the emphasis is upon "shall live". In Galatians 3. 11, the emphasis is upon "by faith". "And the law is not of faith".
(c) The Medium of Blessing is the Meritorious Sacrifice of Christ alone, vv. 13-14. "Christ hath 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". Both the voluntariness and vicarious character of the sacrifice are emphasized in the statement. We were, says the apostle in verse 10, hopelessly under the curse of the law. But the Redeemer took our place under that curse. The cross marked the character of that work as death in its full penal character, and therefore the dreadful forsaking of God. This was in order "that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith". The blessing of Abraham could not come upon the Gentiles except as that curse was removed by Christ, and in this way alone could we receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. In the value of redemption, we are accounted righteous, and the Spirit of God finds a suited home for His indwelling in the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.