JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH ALONE (Verses 1-14)
Verse 1. Paul, reckoning that their defection was due to lack of thought, asks who had misled them by plausible arguments. The suffering of Jesus Christ, crucified for them, had been set before them clearly in the apostle’s preaching.
Verse 2. To clarify the position he questions whether the Holy Spirit, the possession of every true believer, came to them through their own efforts, or through the reception of the good news of the gospel.
Verse 3. Were they so without thinking over these things as to imagine that their spiritual life began by receiving the Holy Spirit, and that they were then perfecting themselves ? Did they need to finish off what the Spirit had begun, by an activity of the flesh, for example, by the keeping of the ordinances of the law ?
Verse 4. Were the sufferings that accompanied their reception of tie gospel to no purpose ? Paul was both to believe that they hail turned away absolutely from the gospel. This he hoped was but a passing delusion.
Verse 5. Paul reverts to v. 2. He asks on what principle does God work when lie supplies everything requisite for the life of faith, in the person of the Holy Spirit. In the word “ supplieth “ he likens God to a chorus-leader who supplies all the requirements of the orchestra (2 Cor. 9. 10). God manifests this by miracles, one of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12. 10). Does He do this con¬sequent oil the keeping of the law, or following the hearing of faith v. 2 ?Obviously, it is on the ground of faith (Mark 16. 17).
Verse 6. Paul now gives an example of the blessings that follow believing, as seen in the case of Abraham. He shows that they had nothing to do with the works of the law. It may be that the Judaizers cited Abraham as an example of the need for circumcision. But Gen. 15. 6 says that he believer] God, and that was counted unto him for justification, that which the Galatian believers had received by faith in Christ, 2. 16.
Verse 7. The conclusion to be drawn from Abraham’s case is clear. Only those who have spiritual life by faith can express the character of Abraham, and receive the same blessings as he, v. 29.
Verse 8. God, the Author of Scripture, knowing that faith would be the only ground for justifying the nations, the same as for the jew, announced the good news beforehand to Abraham.
Verse 9. So then, those who live through faith, v. 7, are blessed as Abraham was, because he believed God, and on no other grounds.
Verse 10. Not only arc men not justified by law-keeping, hut those who attempt it bring themselves under the curse. Negatively they are not blessed, v. 9 ; positively they are cursed. A curse is a judgment pronounced against a man, God’s just penalty for sin, the opposite of blessing, v. 9. Deut. 27. 26 confirms this. Paul impresses on them the risk they incur in wanting to do something that is impossible.
Verse 11. Paul adduces another argument. Scripture shows that a man is not justified by doing the works of the law in God’s sight. It says, Hab. 2. A, that the one who is adjudged right before God receives divine life because of his faith.
Verse 12. And the law has not its origin in faith ; it works on a different principle, that of doing instead of receiving. Lev. 18. 5 proves this. He that doth the statutes of the law shall live in them. The word ‘ doeth ‘ is an aorist participle, lit., he that hath done. The case is imagined of a man being judged after life is over, and found never to have failed to keep the law.
Verse 13. Paul now shows how the Jews, who were subject to the curse of the law, are freed, as in v. 15 he shows how the Gentiles are blessed. Christ, having become a curse for thorn, bought out of the slave-market jews in bondage because of the curse of the law. Not merely did Ho bear the curse, Me completely identified Himself with the demands of the law. This was the price He paid for their redemption. He became a curse when He allowed Himself to be lifted up on the cross. Deut. 21. 23 corroborates this, for the public exposure of hanging on a tree was a mark of the curse of God. Verse 14. Another reason for His becoming a curse–that (he Gentiles, who were blessed when Christ became a curse for the Jews, might receive the blessing promised to Abraham. This blessing is the gift of the Holy Spirit, coining to all, Jew or Gentile, on the ground of faith, and not through works.
THE RELATION OF THE LAW TO THE PROMISE TO ABRAHAM (Versos 15-22)
Verse 15, Paul now reasons according to what is accepted as a principle among men. When a covenant, an undertaking, has been ratified, no one sets it aside, or adds to it. If men in their dealings would not do such a thing, neither will God, the Giver both of the promises and of the law.
Verse 16. The principle of v. 15 is now applied. God gave promises to Abraham (Gen. 12. 1-3 ; 13. 14-17 ; 17. 1-4 ; 22. 15-18), and to his seed. Paul draws attention to the singular, “ seed.” The promises were not to many persons, but to one particular seed–Christ. Thus he draws attention to the verbal inspiration of Scripture.
Verse 17. The covenant to Abraham established by God, who is more dependable than man, v. 15, is not deprived of its authority by the law of Moses, given also by God. The law, coming 430 years later, did not make the promise inactive.
Verse 18. In proof of v. 17 Paid shows that if the inheritance, the sum total of the blessings promised to Abraham, had its origin in the law, then it could not have been in the promises. These are opposites, work on different principles, and the blessings must come from one or the other, not partly from each. But the fact is that God gave it as a matter of grace to Abraham by promise. The word “ gave “ is in the perfect tense. No additions arc needed. The law can have nothing to do with it.
Verse 19. What then is the purpose of the law, seeing it does not give the inheritance ? God could not have given it without a purpose. It was placed alongside the promise, not to complete it, but with a view to revealing transgressions. Before (he law man was a sinner ; after it, a transgressor. The law taught the knowledge of sin, and its exceeding sinfulness (Rom. 7. 7, 13). It was only given parenthetically–till Christ came. It was set in order through angels by the hand of a mediator, Moses, who brought it from God to man.
Verse 20. A mediator implies two contracting parties, who are bound together by him. But when it is question of promise it is God’s sole decree. The Giver is everything, and the recipient nothing. Law and promise work on different principles.
Verse 21. Seeing that the law does not set aside God’s promise, works on a different principle, was given later, v. 17, and is inferior to it, v. 18. is there any antagonism between the two ? No. for if any law. Mosaic or otherwise, could have given spiritual life to those dead iu trespasses and sins, righteousness, the equivalent of life, would have been out of the law. Israel had sought after this eagerly under the law (Rom. 10. 3). But the law does not fulfil this office.
Verse 22. On the contrary, the Scripture (put by metonymy for God its Author) has joined all men together as being unable to escape from the dominion of sin, in order that God’s plan and promise (justification, life, the inheritance) should arise out of faith in Jesus Christ, for all believers. Or, it may be that the promise is the result of the faithfulness of Jesus.
THE RELATION OF THE LAW TO FAITH (Verses 23-29)
Verse 23. Before Christ’s death and resurrection the Jews were guarded by the law, as by a watchman. They were in bondage. shut up to it, v. 22, until faith was revealed as a life-giving principle after the death of Christ.
Verse 24. Thus the law is likened to a pedagogue. The picture here is that of the child-leader, the slave who had charge of the children, and merely brought them to school. He was not their teacher. Usually strict, he enforced his master’s will on the child. So the law was hard and unbending until justification by faith was revealed.
Verse 25. Now faith is revealed, v. 23. Jewish believers are no longer under a pedagogue. The place of the law was to keep them from going astray, to guard them until they were freed by the coming of Christ, into a fuller life.
Verse 26. All believers, Jew and Gentile, are sons of God, enjoying the dignity and freedom of relationship to God by adoption, and reflecting His likeness. Both are brought by faith in Christ into a position vastly superior to that which Israel enjoyed under the law. All this is through faith, by virtue of their union with Christ, as v. 27 shows.
Verse 27. All who were baptized by immersion in water professed association with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and to clothe themselves with the characteristics of Christ. This is a proof of sonship, for only a son of God can show likeness to Him.
Verse 28. fn this sonship there are no national, social or sex distinctions. AH arc members of the body. All have equal standing as sons.
Verse 29. AH believers who are members of Christ’s body, Jew or Gentile, are Abraham’s seed, because they are in Christ, who is the seed, v. 16. They are heirs, because the promise was to Abraham’s seed (not according to the flesh. as Israel fondly hoped, but according to faith), to Christ, and to those that are His.
(To be continued)
The duties and services of faith flow from the truth entrusted. If the truths be neglected, the duties and services cannot be fulfilled.
Faith cherishes the calm and deep conviction that there never was a wall too high for the Almighty God–never a city too great– never a giant too strong. (C. H. M. on Caleb)
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