Bible Teaching as to Faith.
1 O foolish Galatians, who did bewitch you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth crucified? [The Galatians were of well-known intellectual capacty, and their foolishness in not detecting the fallacious reasoning of the Judaizers was hard to understand. Their conduct was so inexplicable that it seemed as if some bewitching fascination like our modern animal magnetism had been made use of, and even this explanation was hardly sufficient, for Christ had been so clearly and forcibly preached unto them, that he had been, as it were, crucified in their very presence, and before their very eyes; so that they had only to look to him to find an antidote to the Satanic poison which was destroying them—Num. 21:9.] 2 This only would I learn from you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? [Rom. 1:5; 16:26. I need ask you but one test question to utterly condemn your conduct. I will refer you to your own experience. When I came and labored among you, God approved and seconded my labor by imparting to you the miraculous powers (v. 5; Mark 16:17; Heb. 2:4) and spiritual graces (v. 14; 4:5, 6; Eph. 1:13) of the Spirit. Now, did ye receive the Spirit by these works of the law which these gospel perverters would have you perform, or did ye receive him by hearing and believing the gospel which I preach? The. Galatians could give but one answer to this question, and that answer decided the point between Paul and his opponents, and showed that God was with the apostle, and not with his enemies.] 3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now perfected in the flesh? 4 Did ye suffer so many things in vain? If it be indeed vain. [Paul here reproves them in that they have begun their life in the manhood of the Spirit, with the attendant spiritual powers, liberties and graces, and were now seeking to advance or perfect that life by turning back to the childhood of the law with its fleshly forms, rites and ordinances. They were advancing backward! (See 4:1-6.) He next reminds them of their sufferings, which were vain, since they might have escaped them altogether, had they begun by embracing Judaism, for the Jews were not being persecuted, but were the very parties who had stirred up the hostility of the Gentiles against all. Christians. "If it be indeed vain," as translated in the text, expresses a hope that they may repent of their apostasy, and so not lose the reward of their sufferings (Matt. 5:11, 12). But the phrase may be rendered "if indeed it is only in vain," which expresses a desire that the loss may be confined to the reward of their sufferings, and may not be extended to something further, as the loss of their salvation. Cook, Meyer, etc., prefer this latter meaning, but, though less commonplace and more forceful, it is also more strained.] 5 He therefore that supplieth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? [According to the unvarying rule of Paul's writings, the pronoun "he" in this verse refers to God rather than to God's minister, though the latter reference might make the smoother reading. The idea is this: Does God, who works miracles among you (or perhaps in you—2:8; Matt. 14:2; Eph. 2:2; Phil. 2:13), do it as a result of your obedience to the law, or because you have heard the gospel and believed it? Verily, by your belief; and so your case is like Abraham's.] 6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness.
[Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3, 9, 21, 22.] 7 Know therefore that they that are of faith, the same are sons of Abraham. [For by faith Abraham came into such relations with God that he attained righteousness and justification; and I want you to know that those who follow his spiritual example are his real or spiritual children, to the exclusion even of his fleshly children, made such by birth, or adopted, as ye seek to be, by circumcision. 8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all the nations be blessed. [Gen. 12:3.] 9 So then they that are of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham. [The word for "Gentiles" and "nations" is the same; so Paul says that the Scripture, foreseeing that the Gentiles would be justified by faith, just as Abraham was, foretold to him this gospel of justification by saying, "In thee shall all the Gentiles be blessed." That is, the blessing of justification which is imparted to you, the father, shall attach to all the spiritual children which are potentially in you, and are hereafter to be, as it were, born out of you; even the Gentiles. Those, therefore, that are of faith, and not those who are children of Abraham after the flesh (for the Gentiles can never be such), are blessed with Abraham.] 10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one who continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them. [Deut. 27:26. But if the Scripture declares positively that the blessing of justification comes by faith, it likewise declares negatively that it does not come by the law, for all failed to keep the law, and it says that all who thus fail rest under a curse, instead of a blessing.] 11 Now that no man is justified by the law before God, is evident: for, The righteous shall live by faith [Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17]; 12 and the law is not of faith; but, He that doeth them shall live in them. [Lev. 18:5. Moreover, later prophecy bears out the earlier declaration made to Abraham, for it says that the righteous obtain life, or salvation, by faith, and this has no reference whatever to the law, for the law is not a system of faith, but an antithetical system of works, for the Scripture so defines it by a counter statement to the one I have quoted, which says that whoever keeps the precepts of the law shall live by them. Compare Rom. 11:6.] 13 Christ 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: 14 that upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. [Deut. 21:23. Compare Matt. 20:28; 1 Tim. 2:6; 2 Cor. 5:20; 7:23; Tit. 2:14, etc. That the Galatians may realize the full meaning of their foolishness, Paul shows them that the condemnation to which they were returning, was the very thing from which the death of Christ redeemed them; for the law brought a curse upon men, but Jesus had delivered from the curse by taking it unto himself, as the Scripture proves; for it called all cursed who were crucified. And Jesus removed this obstructing law and curse, that in himself he might bring Abraham's blessing of justification upon the Gentiles, that all might receive the fulfillment of God's promise, that promise which agreed to give the Spirit to all who rendered the obedience of faith—Acts 2:38, 39.] 15 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men: Though it be but a man's covenant, yet when it hath been confirmed, no one maketh it void, or addeth thereto. 16 Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. [Gen. 13:15; 17:8.] 17 Now this I say: A covenant confirmed beforehand by God, the law, which came four hundred and thirty years after, doth not disannul, so as to make the promise of none effect. 18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no more of promise: but God hath granted it to Abraham by promise. [Brethren, I wish to use an illustration taken from our daily business life, viz.: that of our usage concerning contracts or agreements. Now if, when a human contract has once been confirmed, it becomes so sacred that no man will presume to annul or change it without the consent of both parties, much more is a covenant of God's too sacred to be modified or tampered with. But God made such a ratified or confirmed contract or covenant with Abraham, for he spoke promises to Abraham, and to his seed. Not in fact meaning to Abraham and all his posterity, but to Abraham and his spiritual posterity (for he used a word which may be so interpreted), for he did not use the plural "seeds," but the singular "seed," thereby referring especially to Christ as the head of the spiritual posterity. Now, I say therefore, that this covenant, having been confirmed before the law came, still holds good, and can not be annulled by the coming of the law, for the law, as you know, did not come until four hundred and thirty years after the covenant was confirmed. Now, to sum up what I have said, the promise, being given to the seed of Abraham, becomes to them an inheritance, and inheritances do not come from two parties, but from one; so, if the inheritance had been derived from the law, it could not have been derived from the promise also; but it was derived from the promise, since God thus gave it to Abraham. We lack space for the grammatical and chronological difficulties of this passage. Suffice it to say, "seed," being a collective noun, is capable of being applied to many; but it is also, as Paul says, capable of being applied to one, and none of his auditors would object at all to his thus applying it solely to Christ. Again, if the term of four hundred and thirty years is inaccurate, it is the number given in the Septuagint, which was then universally used. And, for argumentative purposes, was sufficiently correct as a round number.] 19 What then is the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise hath been made; and it was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator. 20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one; but God is one. [This verse has been interpreted in more than three hundred different ways.] 21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could make alive, verily righteousness would have been of the law. 22 But the scripture shut up all things under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. [The apostle now undertakes to show the inferiority of the law to the gospel. For what purpose then, you ask, was the law? It was added by God for the purpose of revealing and manifesting to man his sinfulness, and was to exist only during the interim between the giving of the promise and the fulfillment of the promise by the coming of Christ (2:18; Rom. 5:13-20; 7:7). It was not given directly by divine lips, as was the gospel, but through the intervention of angels (Deut. 33:2; Heb. 2:2); and it was not given personally, but through Moses, a mediator (Deut. 5:5). Now, this mediatorship of Moses also argues the temporal nature of the law; for a mediator is no part of the personality of the one whom he represents: he is a different personality; but God is one personality, and can not, therefore, be properly represented by any other than himself. Such a mediatorship, therefore, must, in the very nature of the case, be but temporary. The men who represent God are mortal and pass away, but God is immutable and ever-abiding. His promises, therefore, stand on a different plane from anything which rests on human mediation. But some one will ask, if the law brings a curse, is it not antagonistic to the promises which bring a blessing? God forbid that we should think that the Almighty acts in so contrary a manner. There are two ways in which the law might antagonize the gospel. 1. If righteousness could have been obtained by it, it might have proved a rival way of life. But it is no such rival. 2. If it had destroyed life despite the gospel, it would have been contradictory to the gospel. But it merely shut men up as prisoners, doomed for their sins, that justification by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to all them that believe. Thus, instead of being antagonistic to the gospel, the law emphasized and revealed the blessedness of the gospel.] 23 But before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. [In the first of these two verses, Paul enlarges the thought of verse 22, fully describing those subjects of the law as prisoners incarcerated in a fortress, and awaiting the coming of a deliverer. The next image is distinct from that of a fortress, yet very similar to it; for the pedagogue or tutor was usually a slave, whose duty it was to take charge of a boy from his childhood to his majority, shield him from physical and moral evil, accompany him in all his amusement, and, as it were, keep him as a prisoner at large, lest he should in any way injure himself. Now, the law was such a tutor to bring those under his care to a state of development fit for the society and fellowship of Christ, the spiritual father.] 25 But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus. [Faith, announcing justification from sin, is like a messenger of the father's announcing maturity and liberty to the son so long under the care of a tutor. From the time of this announcement the son ceases to be a minor, shut off from the father, and becomes the companion of the father. Paul plainly declares the literal meaning of his figurative language in v. 26. Fausset draws attention to the analogy between the illustration here and that formed by the history of Moses and Joshua. Moses, as a representative of the law, brought the people to the border of the land of liberty; but it was the privilege of Joshua, as a type of faith, to lead the people into the full enjoyment of that liberty.] 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ. 28 There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye are all one man in Christ Jesus. [Having declared that faith, that is to say, the gospel, brings us into sonship to God, Paul describes the particular step by which this is accomplished. That step is baptism, for by baptism we become part of the mystical body of Christ. We put on the personality of Christ in the sight of God, and so become, in an individual sense, sons of God, but the individual sense is almost wholly lost in the collective, so that all those racial distinctions and all the fictitious distinctions of caste, and even the distinction of gender, which made a man look upon a woman with contempt, are lost sight of. Not only are all men and women new creatures in Christ Jesus, so that old things are passed away, but they are all part of one new organism, which in glory and importance obscures all former differences.] 29 And if ye are Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise. [The promise was given to Christ, the seed of Abraham, and if ye are Christ's, then are ye in him heirs of that promise. Thus Paul demonstrates that the gospel privileges are not obtained by the law, but by the gospel system of justification through faith, which gospel system was promised equally to all nations, and may be enjoyed by them all without any racial or less distinctions.]
—Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans