|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:1-5 St. Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ; he was expressly appointed by him, consequently by God the Father, who is one with him in respect of his Divine nature, and who appointed Christ as Mediator. Grace, includes God's good-will towards us, and his good work upon us; and peace, all that inward comfort, or outward prosperity, which is really needful for us. They come from God the Father, as the Fountain, through Jesus Christ. But observe, first grace, and then peace; there can be no true peace without grace. Christ gave himself for our sins, to make atonement for us: this the justice of God required, and to this he freely submitted. Here is to be observed the infinite greatness of the price bestowed, and then it will appear plainly, that the power of sin is so great, that it could by no means be put away except the Son of God be given for it. He that considers these things well, understands that sin is a thing the most horrible that can be expressed; which ought to move us, and make us afraid indeed. Especially mark well the words, for our sins. For here our weak nature starts back, and would first be made worthy by her own works. It would bring him that is whole, and not him that has need of a physician. Not only to redeem us from the wrath of God, and the curse of the law; but also to recover us from wicked practices and customs, to which we are naturally enslaved. But it is in vain for those who are not delivered from this present evil world by the sanctification of the Spirit, to expect that they are freed from its condemnation by the blood of Jesus.
Verse 4. - Who gave himself (τοῦ δόντος ἑαυτόν). This is the strongest imaginable description of what Christ did to redeem us. The phrase occurs in 1 Macc. 6:44, with reference to the Eleazar who rushed upon certain death to kill the elephant which was carrying the king, Antiochus: "He gave himself (ἔδωκεν ἑαυτὸν) to save his people." It is applied to Christ also in Titus 2:14," Who gave himself for us;" and 1 Timothy 2:6, "Who gave himself a ransom for all." In the next chapter, ver. 20, the apostle writes, "Who loved me, and gave himself up (πυραδόντος ἑαυτὸν) for me." Similarly, St. Paul writes in Romans 8:32, "He that spared not [i.e. 'kept not back'] his own Son, but gave him up (παρέδωκεν αὐτὸν) for us all." The addition, in Matthew 26:45, of the words, "into the hands of sinners," and our Lord's utterance in Luke 22:53, "This is your hour, and the power of darkness," help to illustrate the exceedingly pregnant expression now before us. For our sins (ὑπέρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν). This is the reading of the Textus Receptus, retained by the Revisers. On the other hand, L. T. Tr., for ὑπέρ, substitute περί. These two prepositions ὑπὲρ and περὶ are, in this relation as well as in some others, used indifferently. If we follow the reading of Rec. L. T. Tr. Rev. (for very often the manuscripts oscillate between the two), we have ὑπὲρ in 1 Corinthians 15:3, "Died for our sins;" Hebrews 7:27, "To offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people;" Hebrews 9:7, "Blood, which he offereth for himself, and for the ignorances of the people." On the other hand, we find in the same authorities περὶ in Romans 8:3, "Sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin;" Hebrews 5:3, "As for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins" (where, however, the Receptus has ὑπὲρ in the last clause, ("for sins"); Hebrews 10:6, "Whole burnt offerings, and sacrifices for sin;" Hebrews 10:18, "No more offering for sin;" 1 John 2:2, 10, "Propitiation for our sins;" 1 Peter 3:16, "Died [or, 'suffered'] for (περὶ) sins, the righteous for (ὑπὲρ) the unrighteous." The last passage (1 Peter 3:18) suggests the remark that ὑπὲρ is the more appropriate word before persons, and περὶ before "sins." We find, however, that, in the Septuagint, in the Pentateuch περὶ is used also before persons as it is in Hebrews 5:3; thus: Leviticus 5:18, "The priest shall make atonement for περὶ him concerning (περὶ) his ignorance;" in both cases rendering the Hebrew al. So Leviticus 4:20, 26, 31, 35; Numbers 8:12. On the other hand, in Exodus 32:30 we have "I will go up unto the Lord, that I may make atonement for (περί, b'ad) your sin." The truth seems to be that ὑπέρ, which is more properly "on behalf of" often denotes "for," equivalent to "on account of;" as e.g. Psalm 39:11, Septuagint, "rebukes for sin;" Ephesians 5:20, "Giving thanks always for all things;" Romans 15:9, "Glorify God for his mercy." And this sense passes into "concerning," "with reference to;" as 2 Corinthians 1:8, "I would not have you ignorant concerning our affliction;" 2 Corinthians 8:23, "Whether any inquire about Titus." On the other hand, περί, which more properly denotes "concerning," "with reference to," passes into the sense of "on account of;" as Luke 19:37, "Praise God for all the mighty works;" John 10:33, "For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy;" 1 Corinthians 1:4, "I thank my God... concerning you;" 1 Thessalonians 1:2, "We give thanks to God for you all;" Romans 1:8, "I thank my God for [Receptus, ὑπὲρ] you all." The use of περὶ in the verse before us, and in the similar passages above cited, no doubt followed its use in the phrase περὶ ἁμαρτίας, which in the LXX. so commonly describes the "sin offering" of the Levitical institute. This phrase sometimes represents what in the Hebrew text is the simple noun (chattath) "sin," put for "sin offering;" as e.g. Leviticus 7:37, "This is the law ofthe burnt offering, of the meat offering, and of the sin offering (chattath)," etc. (οῦτος ὁ νόμος τῶν ὁλοκαυτωμάτων καὶ θυσίας καὶ περὶ ἁμαρτίας, etc.). Sometimes it represents the same Hebrew noun preceded by the preposition al, for: "For the sin of such or such a one (περὶ τῆς ἁμαρτίας τοῦ δεῖνα);" as e.g. Leviticus 5:35, where the LXX. has, "The priest shall make atonement for him for the sin which he hath sinned (ἐξιλάσεται περι αὐτοῦ ὁ ἱερεὺς περὶ τῆς ἁμαρτίας η}ν ἥμαρτε)." The precise force of περὶ in this phrase was probably "on account of sin," or "having reference to sin;" senses of περὶ which, as has been seen, are borne by ὑπὲρ as well. This view of the force of these two prepositions, as employed in this relation, seems to the present writer more satisfactory than that which refers it to the notion of protection, "on behalf of" or "for the good of" some one; though it must unquestionably be allowed that this is a notion which they both of them frequently convey. To this latter notion, indeed, we must in all probability refer the use of ὑπὲρ in Galatians 2:20, "Gave himself up for me," as well as in 1 Peter 3:18, 6, for the unrighteous;" Luke 22:19, 20, "Given for you," "Poured out for you," and the like; and also that of περὶ in Matthew 26:28, "Shed for many;" John 17:9, "I pray for them;" Colossians 4:3, "Praying for us." The result of this inquiry into the usus loquendi with reference to these prepositions appears to be this: in what manner the death of Christ affected our condition in those respects in which that condition was antecedently qualified by our sins, neither ὑπὲρ nor περὶ as prefixed to the noun "sins" enables us precisely to determine, further than as it recalls for illustration the "sin offering" of the Law. For the more complete development of the idea intended to be conveyed, we must look to other references made in Scripture to the subject, such as e.g. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 1:19. Thus much, however, we may confidently assume: both ὑπὲρ and περὶ as so applied do alike warrant us in concluding, not only that it was because of our sins that Christ behoved to die, but also that his death is efficacious for the complete removal of those evils which accrue to us from our sins. That he might deliver us from this present evil world (ὅπως ἐξέληται ἡμᾶς ἐκ τοῦ αἰῶνος τοῦ ἐνεστῶτος πονηροῦ. Such is the reading of L. T. Tr. Rev.; while the Textus Receptus has ὅπως ἐξέληται ἡμᾶς ἐκ τοῦ ἐνεστῶτος αἰῶνος πονηροῦ); that he might deliver us out of the present world, evil that it is. The verb ἐξαιρέομαι, originally "take out," renders the Hebrew hitztzil in 1 Samuel 4:8 and Jeremiah 1:8 in the sense of "deliver;" it points to "the present state" as one of helpless misery or danger. Compare the use of the verb, Acts 7:10, 34; Acts 12:11; it is equivalent to ῤύεσθαι, as found in Colossians 1:13 and Luke 1:74. The participle "present" or "subsisting," ἐνεστώς, is found in explicit contrast with the participle "to come," μέλλων, Romans 8:38," Nor things present nor things to come;" and 1 Corinthians 3:22. We are, therefore, naturally led to suppose that the apostle means to contrast the "world" here referred to with a "world to come;" which latter is mentioned in Hebrews 6:5, and seems synonymous with the "world [literally, 'inhabited earth'] to come," οἰκουμένη μέλλουσα, of Hebrews 2:5. Compare our Lord's words in Matthew 12:32, "Neither in this world nor in that which is to come," and his contrast of "this world" with "that world" in Luke 20:34, 35. The Greek word here employed, aion, like kosmos, is used with varying shades of meaning. The two nouns, used interchangeably in 1 Corinthians 3:18, 19 are, however, not altogether equivalent. The former originally denotes a mode of time; the latter, a mode of space. In particular, aion is never used in the Greek Testament to denote "mankind," as kosmos not unfrequently is by all its writers. In the Syriac Version, olmo represents both aion and kosmos in all their senses, with a slight variation in its form to represent aion in Ephesians 2:2, "The course (aida) of this world (kosmos)," as if it were "The worldliness of this world." Probably the same word olmo, in the Chaldean-Hebrew language current amongst the Palestinian Jews, was the term employed by them in all those connections in which either aion or kosmos would have been used by them if speaking in Hellenistic Greek; for it is to the Hellenistic dialect of the Greek language that both words as so employed belong. We never find aion at all in any of St. John's writings, except in the phrases, εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα or εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, denoting "for ever." In other significations, when other writers of the New Testament might have used aion, St. John always puts kosmos. The word aion, denoting a cycle of time, is used also to signify a material world, as Hebrews 1:2; and, in particular, the state of things found existing in that cycle of time; and this as viewed in various aspects. In Luke 20:34, 35 "this aida" contrasts the present state, as one of mortality and successive reproduction, with "that aion," viewed as one of immortality, in which processes of reproduction are found no more. But in Luke 16:8 "the children of this aion" are those who live after the world-loving, sinful fashion which characterizes mankind in general in contrast with "the children of light," who have been enlightened to recognize their relation to a spiritual world. In St. Paul, "the present αἰὼν denotes the entire moral and spiritual state of mankind viewed in the aspect in which he contemplated it - a state wrapped in spiritual "darkness," pervaded by ungodliness and general immorality, and dominated by Satan; as Bengel puts it, "tota oeconomia peceati sub potestate Satanae" (Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 4:4); a state from which Christians ought to study to get wholly weaned in all their moral and spiritual habits (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:22-24). In St. John, the phrases, "the world (kosmos)," or "this world" are frequently employed to express the same idea; as e.g. John 12:31; John 16:11; 1 John 2:15, 16; 1 John 5:19. Out of this "power, empire, of darkness," in which by nature apart from Christ's grace all men are hopelessly enthralled; out of the grasp, inextricable by any efforts of their own, with which Satan holds them, - the apostle recognizes Christ as alone able to "rescue" us; and even him only able to "rescue" us by virtue of his atoning sacrifice of himself Thus, in an eminently just application of the verb, he is said to "redeem" (λυτροῦσθαι) them from all iniquity, which expression includes, not only the idea of his paying down a ransom for their emancipation, but also the thought that, by the power of his grace, he makes the ransom effectual for the actual moral and spiritual deliverance, one by one, of those who believe in him: "he purifies them a people of his very own, devoted to good works" (Titus 2:14). The position in the Greek of the epithet "evil," standing in a peculiar manner without the article after "this present world" (τοῦ αἰῶνος τοῦ ἐνεστῶτος πονηροῦ), is discussed both by Bishop Ellicott and by Bishop) Lightfoot in their respective Commentaries on the Epistle; the latter of whom takes it as equivalent to "with all its evils." It seems to the present writer that the syntax of the clause groups it with Ephesians 2:11," That which is called circumcision, in the flesh, made [or, 'done '] with hands (τῆς λεγομένης περιτομῆς ἐν σαρκὶ χειροποιητοῦ)," where ἐν σαρκὶ χειροποιητοῦ has no article, because it is a logical adjunct: the circumcision "which is made in the flesh with hands," is of course no real circumcision (cf. Romans 2. fin.), and there-fore is only one so "called." So in the present passage the epithet "evil" is a logical adjunct: the state of the world being an "evil state," craved Christ's redemption, and this fact should make that redemption welcome to us. Similarly, in 1 Peter 1:18 the epithet" handed from your fathers (πατροπαραδοτοῦ)," added after "your vain manner of life," is a logical adjunct: the fact that it was ancient and traditional gave it so strong a hold upon them as to crave the intervention of a no ordinary ransom to redeem them from it. With the turn of thought, which according to this view is indicated by the epithet πονηροῦ having been added to the noun without the article, agrees likewise the emphatic position of the verb ἐξέληται at the Lead of the sentence. Christ gave his own very self for this end, that he might deliver us out of this wretched state of things to which we belonged. But the reactionary movement now showing itself among the Galatians would inevitably, the apostle feels (see Galatians 5:4), have the effect of making void this redeeming work of Christ, and of involving them afresh in their original misery. If we adhere to the reading in the Textus Receptus, τοῦ ἐνεστῶτος αἰῶνος πονηροῦ, we had best, perhaps, accept Winer's proposal ('Gram. N. T.,' § 20, 1 a), and explain the absence of the article by supposing αἰὼν πονηριὸς as forming one notion, as in the case of βρῶμα πνευματικὸν and πόμα πν. in the Textus Receptus of 1 Corinthians 10:3. But this reading, though grammatically it runs more smoothly than the other, is on that very account the less likely to have been the original one, and seems greatly to blunt the significance of the adjective. May we not detect in this epithet "evil" the sound of a sigh, drawn from the apostle's heart by this flesh worry and disappointment now cropping up for him and for all who cared for the success of the gospel? His feeling seems to be - Oh the weary evilness of this present state! When will it be brought to an end by the appearing of that blissful hope? (comp. 2 Corinthians 5:4). According to the will of God and our Father (κατὰ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς ἡμῶν); according to the will of our God and Father. It is, perhaps, of no great consequence whether we understand this clause as pointing to the whole preceding sentence, "Who gave himself... world," or to the last clause of it, "That he might deliver... world." But the former is the more probable construction:
(1) there is no reason for restricting it to the last words;
(2) it is in perfect accordance with the apostle's usual reference of Christ's coming into the world and dying for us to the Father's appointment, that he should here too be understood as referring to this work of delivering grace also.
The feeling apparently underlies these words of the apostle, that the Judaizing which he has now before his eyes was both setting itself in opposition to the supreme ordering of "our God" - and his sovereign "will" who of us shall dare to contravene? - and also thwarting the operation of his fatherly loving-kindness. For the lack of filial confidence in God's love to us, and the slavish ceremonialism which characterized Judaical legalism, were both of them adjuncts of the unspiritual mind still in bondage to "the flesh" (cf. Romans 7. and 8.), and therefore part and parcel of "this present world." Comp. Galatians 3:3; Galatians 4:3, 8-10; and Colossians 2:20," Why, as living in the world, do ye subject yourselves to ordinances, Handle not," etc.? As Professor Jowett observes, in this case as well as in the Epistle to the Romans, "The salutation is the proem of the whole Epistle." The expression, "our God and Father," is pathetic; it is an outcome of the deep complacency with which the apostle cherishes the assurance of God's fatherly love given us in the gospel - a sentiment of complacency stimulated into increased fervency by antagonism to the spiritual mischief confronting him. Of our God and Father. So Revised Version. This rendering appears decidedly preferable to that given by the Authorized Version, "of God and our Father," though grammatically this latter is confessedly not inadmissible. The like remark applies to all the other passages in the New Testament in which Θεὸς καὶ Πατὴρ is found followed by a genitive; namely, by πάντων (Ephesians 4:6); by ἡμῶν as in the passage before us (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:11, 13; Philippians 4:20); by τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Ξριστοῦ (Romans 15:6; Ephesians 1:3; Colossians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3); by τοῦ Κυρίου Ἰησοῦ (2 Corinthians 11:31 [L. T. Tr. Rev.; Receptus has τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Ξριστοῦ]; and by αὐτοῦ (Revelation 1:6).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Who gave himself for our sins,.... The antecedent to the relative "who, is our Lord Jesus Christ", Galatians 1:3 and the words are an illustration of the good will of God the Father, and of the grace and love of Christ, in the gift of himself, for the sins of his people: he did not merely give, "sua, his own things", what were his properly, but, "se, himself"; not the world, and the fulness of it, gold, silver, and such like corruptible things; no, nor men for them, and people for their lives; nor angels, his creatures, and ministering spirits; but his own self, his life, his flesh, his blood, his body, and soul, his whole human nature, and this as in union with himself, a divine person, the eternal Son of God. He gave himself freely, cheerfully, voluntarily, into the hands of men, justice, and death itself, as a sacrifice for sin, to expiate it, make reconciliation and atonement for it, which could not be done by the sacrifices of the legal dispensation; to procure the remission of it, which could not be had without shedding or blood; and utterly to take it away, finish it, and make an end of it, and abolish it, so as that it might never rise any more to the condemnation of his people: and this reached to "sins" of all sorts, not only original, but actual, and these of thought, word, and deed; and this oblation of himself upon the cross, was not for any sin of his own, who had none, nor for the sins of angels, of whom he was no Redeemer aud Saviour, but "for our sins"; not the sins of the apostles, or of the Jews only, nor yet of all mankind, but of God's elect, called the friends of Christ, his sheep and church, for whom he gave himself; and his end in so doing was,
that he might deliver us from this present evil world; by which is meant, either the Jewish world, or church state, in which were a worldly sanctuary, and which were subject to ceremonies and traditions, called the elements and rudiments of the world; and who were possessed of worldly notions, and in expectation of a worldly kingdom to be set up by the Messiah; and both in principle and in practice were sadly degenerated, and were become very evil and wicked: or the present age and generation of men, whether of Jews or Gentiles, which was so corrupt, as the like was never known; or in general the present world, and the men of it, in distinction either from the world before the flood, as in 2 Peter 3:5 or rather from the new heavens and earth, which will be after the present ones, and wherein will dwell righteousness; or, in a word, from the world which is to come, as they are frequently opposed in Scripture: and which is said to be "evil", not with respect to the matter, that being all very good, as created by God; but with respect to the men of it, who lie in wickedness, under the power of the wicked one, and of their own sins; and to the things which are in it, all which are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Now Christ gave himself a sacrifice for the sins of his people, that as in consequence of this they might be delivered and saved from the damning power, so from the governing power and influence of all that is evil in this present world; as from Satan, the god of it, who has usurped a power over it; from the lusts that are predominant in it; from the vain conversation of the men of it; from the general conflagration of it at the last day, and from the perdition of ungodly men, and their eternal destruction in hell: and all this is
according to the will of God, and our Father, It was by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God that Christ was delivered up into the hands of wicked men, and put to death by them; it was his will of purpose and decree, to deliver him up into the hands of justice and death, and that he should give himself sacrifice for sin; yea, it was his will of command, that he should lay down his life for his sheep, to which he was obedient; it was his pleasure, it was what was agreeable to him, was to his good liking, that he should die for the sins of his people; it was owing to the love of God, who is our Father in Christ, and by adopting grace, and not to any worth or desert of ours, that Christ gave himself for us; as his own love, so his Father's will, were what solely moved him to it.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
4. gave himself—(Ga 2:20); unto death, as an offering. Found only in this and the Pastoral Epistles. The Greek is different in Eph 5:25 (see on Eph 5:25).
for our sins—which enslaved us to the present evil world.
deliver us from this—Greek, "out of the," &c. The Father and Son are each said to "deliver us," &c. (Col 1:13): but the Son, not the Father, gave Himself for us in order to do so, and make us citizens of a better world (Php 3:20). The Galatians in desiring to return to legal bondage are, he implies, renouncing the deliverance which Christ wrought for us. This he more fully repeats in Ga 3:13. "Deliver" is the very word used by the Lord as to His deliverance of Paul himself (Ac 26:17): an undesigned coincidence between Paul and Luke.
world—Greek, "age"; system or course of the world, regarded from a religious point of view. The present age opposes the "glory" (Ga 1:5) of God, and is under the authority of the Evil One. The "ages of ages" (Greek, Ga 1:5) are opposed to "the present evil age."
according to the will of God and our Father—Greek, "of Him who is at once God [the sovereign Creator] and our Father" (Joh 6:38, 39; 10:18, end). Without merit of ours. His sovereignty as "God," and our filial relation to Him as "OUR Father," ought to keep us from blending our own legal notions (as the Galatians were doing) with His will and plan. This paves the way for his argument.
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