|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:6-14 The apostle proves the doctrine he had blamed the Galatians for rejecting; namely, that of justification by faith without the works of the law. This he does from the example of Abraham, whose faith fastened upon the word and promise of God, and upon his believing he was owned and accepted of God as a righteous man. The Scripture is said to foresee, because the Holy Spirit that indited the Scripture did foresee. Through faith in the promise of God he was blessed; and it is only in the same way that others obtain this privilege. Let us then study the object, nature, and effects of Abraham's faith; for who can in any other way escape the curse of the holy law? The curse is against all sinners, therefore against all men; for all have sinned, and are become guilty before God: and if, as transgressors of the law, we are under its curse, it must be vain to look for justification by it. Those only are just or righteous who are freed from death and wrath, and restored into a state of life in the favour of God; and it is only through faith that persons become righteous. Thus we see that justification by faith is no new doctrine, but was taught in the church of God, long before the times of the gospel. It is, in truth, the only way wherein any sinners ever were, or can be justified. Though deliverance is not to be expected from the law, there is a way open to escape the curse, and regain the favour of God, namely, through faith in Christ. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law; being made sin, or a sin-offering, for us, he was made a curse for us; not separated from God, but laid for a time under the Divine punishment. The heavy sufferings of the Son of God, more loudly warn sinners to flee from the wrath to come, than all the curses of the law; for how can God spare any man who remains under sin, seeing that he spared not his own Son, when our sins were charged upon him? Yet at the same time, Christ, as from the cross, freely invites sinners to take refuge in him.
Verse 13. - Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law (Ξριστὸς ἡμᾶς ἐξηγόρασεν ἐκ τῆς κατάρας τοῦ νόμου); Christ bought us off from the curse of the Law. The position of the word "Christ" in the Greek, heading the sentence, makes it emphatic - Christ; he alone; no means offered by the Law hath procured justification for the sinner. "Us;" not merely the Israelites after the flesh, who were visibly under the Law: but either all mankind, Gentiles as well as Israelites, being declared by the Law unclean and unholy, both ceremonially and morally, and thus under its curse (comp. "for us," 2 Corinthians 5:21); or God's people, the children of Abraham, prospective as well as present (comp. John 11:50-52 and Galatians 4:5). "Redeemed," or "bought us off." The same compound Greek verb occurs Galatians 4:5, "That he might redeem [buy off] them who were under the Law;" obviously, buy off from being under it. Another Greek verb, λυτρόω, ransom, is rendered "redeem" in Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18; whence the compound verbal noun ἀπλούτρωσις, redemption, in Romans 3:24; Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 1:30, etc. The apostle may be supposed to have preferred to use ἐξαγοράζω here, as pointing more definitely to the price which the Redeemer paid; for in λυτρόω, redeem, this notion of a price paid often lies so far in the background as to leave the verb to denote simply "deliver." The un-compounded verb ἀγοράζω, buy, is found with reference to Christ's death in 1 Corinthians 6:20 and 1 Cor 7:23, "Ye were bought with a price;" 2 Peter 2:1, "The Master that bought them;" Revelation 5:9, "Didst purchase unto God with thy blood." In the present passage it is not the blood of Christ, as in 1 Peter 1:18, that is regarded as the purchase money, - for the notion of expiation with blood of sacrifice is not even glanced at; but rather, as the next words show, his taking upon him the accursedness and pollution which by the Law attached to every one crucified. "From the curse of the Law;" its cursing affects us no more. God's people are, in Christ. no longer, as they were before, subject to his disapproval or abhorrence, in consequence of transgressing the positive, ceremonial enactments of the Law of Moses. In respect to that class of transgressions, its cursing expended itself, and perished, upon the crucified body of the Son of God. Being made a curse for us (γενόμενος ὐπὲρ ἡμ῀ν κατάρα); having become on our behalf a curse. The position of κατάρα makes it emphatic. The form of expression, "become a curse," instead of "become accursed," is chosen to mark the intense degree in which the Law's curse fastened upon the Lord Jesus. Compare the expression, "made him on our behalf sin," in 2 Corinthians 5:21. Probably the form of expression was suggested to the apostle by that found in the Hebrew of the passage of Deuteronomy which he proceeds to cite (see next note but one). The preposition ὑπέρ, "for,... . on behalf of," may possibly mean "in place of," as (perhaps) in Philemon 1:13; but this idea would have been more distinctly expressed by ἀντί: and the strict notion of substitution is not necessary to the line of argument here pursued. For it is written (γέγραπται γὰρ). But the more approved reading is ὅτι γέγραπται, because it is written; which more definitely marks the writer's purpose of vindicating the propriety of his using so strong an expression as "becoming a curse." Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree (ἐπικατάρατος πᾶς ὁ κρεμάμενος ἐπὶ ξύλου); or, upon wood (Deuteronomy 21:23). The Septuagint has Κεκατηραμένος [or, Κατηραμένος] ὑπὸ Θεοῦ πᾶς κρεμάμενος [or, πᾶς ὁ κρ.] ξύλου, "Cursed by God is every one hanging on a tree." The Hebrew is qillath elohim talui, "a curse of God is he that is hanged." The words, "every one" and "on a tree," are additions made by the Septuagint; the latter expression, however, is found in the preceding clause, as also in the preceding verse; so that the sense is given rightly. The apostle departs from the Septuagintal rendering of the Hebrew phrase, "a curse of God," probably because he regarded the rendering as inaccurate; for the phrase, "curse of God," is probably a strongly intensive form of expression, like "wrestlings of God," in Genesis 30:8 ("great wrestlings," Authorized Version). See note on "exceeding great city" (Hebrew, "a city great unto God") in Jonah 3:3, in 'Speaker's Commentary.' According to this view, ἐπικατάρατος, in which the element ἐπὶ is intensive, is a just interpretation; while it also makes the clause more striking as an antithesis to the ἐπικατάρατος, etc., in ver. 10. We are, per haps, justified in adding that it would not have exactly suited the apostle's purpose to admit the words," by God;" for, though the Law pronounced the crucified Jesus a "curse," God, in the apostle's feeling, did not in this case ratify the Law's malediction. To understand the bearing of the verse rightly it is necessary to be quite clear as to the sense in which Christ is here said to have become a curse. The context shows that he became a curse simply by hanging upon a tree. No spiritual trans action, such as that of our guilt being laid upon him, comes into view here at all. It was simply the suspension upon a cross that imparted to him, in the eye of the Law, this character of accursedness, of extreme abhorrent defilement. In other words, the accursedness was the extreme of ceremonial pollutedness - ceremonial, with no admixture of guilt or spiritual pollution. It has, indeed, been attempted by critics, Jewish as well as Christian, as Bishop Lightfoot has shown, to justify this aphorism of the Law, by the plea that one thus punished might inferentially be supposed to have merited this form of execution by some especial enormity of guilt. But, plainly, such previous guiltiness might not have been present; the man crucified, or impaled, or hung might have suffered upon a false accusation. But though he bad suffered unjustly, his being gibbeted would, notwithstanding his innocence, constitute him "a curse of God" all the same. Ceremonial pollutedness, as well as ceremonial purity, was altogether independent of moral considerations. And at present the line of thought which the apostle is following relates simply to questions of Levitical or ceremonial purity or defilement. Have Christian believers as such anything to do with these matters? This is the point at issue. The apostle proves that they have nothing to do with them, upon the ground that the crucifixion of Christ did away wholly with the ceremonial Law. It will only confuse the reader if he supposes that the apostle means here to embody the whole doctrine of Christ's sacrificial atonement; he is at present concerned with stating the relation which his passion bore to the Law. The passage before us illustrates the meaning of the words in Galatians 2:19, "I through the Law died unto the Law:" he felt himself disconnected from the ceremonial Law, in consequence of that Law pronouncing Christ crucified "a curse of God." A question arises, how far the crucifixion of Christ, viewed in this particular aspect of its constituting him in the eye of the ceremonial Law an accursed thing, modified for those who believe on him the effect of the malediction which the Law pronounced upon such as violated its moral precepts. The following observations are offered for the reader's consideration. The Law given in the Pentateuch is uniformly spoken of in Scripture as forming one whole. Composed of precepts, some moral, some ceremonial, some partaking mixedly of both qualities, it constituted, however, one entire coherent system. If a part of it was destroyed, the whole Law as such itself perished. If so, then the cross of Christ, by annihilating its ceremonial enactments, shattered in pieces the whole legislation, so that the disciples of Christ are no longer at all under its dominion, or subjects jurisprudentially (so to speak) to its coercive punitive power. Yet its moral precepts, so far as they embodied the eternal principles of rectitude, would, so far, and because they do so, and not because they were part of the Law given through Moses, continue to express the will of God concerning us. Being, however, "letter" and not "spirit," they were always altogether inadequate expressions of that Divine will - a will which is spiritual, 'which is evermore changing its form and aspect towards each human soul, according to the ever-varying conditions of its spiritual position. The moral precepts of the Law are for us no more than types or figures, mere hints or suggestions of the spiritual duties which they refer to; they cannot be regarded as definitively regulative laws at all. Thus they appear to be treated by Christ and his apostles; as e.g. Matthew 5:21-37; 1 Corinthians 9:8-10; and it is in this light that the Church of England regards them, in reciting the Decalogue in her Pre-Communion Office. And, analogously, the curse which the Law pronounces upon those who set any of its precepts at nought, whether moral or ceremonial, may be regarded as a mere type, revealing, or rather giving a slightest most imperfect glimpse of, the wrath with which the Divine justice burns against wilful transgressors of the eternal Law; a hint or suggestion, again, and not its direct denouncement. God's people, however, by being through faith united to the crucified and risen Christ, become through his cross dead to the whole Law of Hoses, both as regulative and as punitive, - freed from it absolutely; not, however, to be without Law unto God; only, the Law they are now under is a spiritual Law, one conformable to the nature of that dispensation of life and of the Spirit, to which through the Risen One they belong. With this view it agrees that the execration which the Law pronounced upon the Son of God as crucified, and by pronouncing which the Law itself perished, is to be regarded as a most significant and impressive symbol of the spiritual import of our Lord's death. It pronounces to the universe that, for those who by faith are one with Christ, the wrath of Divine justice against them as sinners is quenched - quenched in the infinite, Divine love and righteousness of Christ.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law,.... The Redeemer is Christ, the Son of God; who was appointed and called to this work by his Father, and which he himself agreed to; he was spoken of in prophecy under this character; he came as such, and has obtained eternal redemption, for which he was abundantly qualified; as man, he was a near kinsman, to whom the right of redemption belonged; and as God, he was able to accomplish it. The persons redeemed are "us", God's elect, both of Jews and Gentiles; a peculiar people, the people of Christ, whom the Father gave unto him; some out of every kindred, tongue, people, and nation: the blessing obtained for them is redemption; a buying of them again, as the word signifies; they were his before by the Father's gift, and now he purchases them with the price of his own blood, and so delivers them "from the curse of the law"; its sentence of condemnation and death, and the execution of it; so that they shall never be hurt by it, he having delivered them from wrath to come, and redeemed from the second death, the lake which burns with fire and brimstone. The manner in which this was done was by being
made a curse for us; the sense of which is, not only that he was like an accursed person, looked upon as such by the men of that wicked generation, who hid and turned away their faces from as an abominable execrable person, calling him a sinner, a Samaritan, and a devil; but was even accursed by the law; becoming the surety of his people, he was made under the law, stood in their legal place and stead and having the sins of them all imputed to him, and answerable for them, the law finding them on him, charges him with them, and curses him for them; yea, he was treated as such by the justice of God, even by his Father, who spared him not, awoke the sword of justice against him, and gave him up into his hands; delivered him up to death, even the accursed death of the cross, whereby it appeared that he was made a curse: "made", by the will, counsel, and determination of God, and not without his own will and free consent; for he freely laid down his life, and gave himself, and made his soul an offering for sin:
for it is written. Deuteronomy 21:23,
cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree: it is in the Hebrew text, "he that is hanged": which is the very name the Jews (y) commonly call Christ by way of reproach; that is, "everyone that hangeth", as the apostle rightly renders it; which is always the sense of an indefinite phrase, unless a restriction is put: adding out of the same verse, "on the tree", by way of explanation; for which he cannot upon any account be found fault with, since it is manifest one hanged on a tree is meant, "who is accursed of God", or "the curse of God"; the curse of God, in vindicating his righteous law, was visibly on such a person; as it was on Christ, when he hung on the cross, in the room and stead of his people; for he was made a curse, not for himself, or for any sins of his own, but for us; in our room and stead, for our sins, and to make atonement for them: upon the whole, the Jew (z) has no reason to find fault as he does, either with the apostle's sense, or citation of this passage; for whether it be rendered "hangeth", or is "hanged", the sense is the same; and though the apostle leaves out the word "God", it is clear from what he says, that his meaning is, that the curse of God lighted upon Christ as the surety of his people, standing in their legal place and stead, in order to redeem them from the law and its curse; since he says, he was "made a curse" for them, which must be done by the Lord himself: and whereas the Jew objects, that it is impossible that anyone, even an Israelite, should be delivered from the curses of the law, but by the observance of it, this shows his ignorance of the law, which, in case of sin, requires a penalty, and which is its curse; and it is not future observance of the law will free from that: and as for the Gentiles, he says, to whom the law was not given, and who were never under it, they are free from the curses of it, without a redemption; but as this is to be, understood not of the ceremonial, but of the moral law, it is a mistake; the Gentiles are under the moral law, and being guilty of the violation of it, are liable to its curse; and cannot be delivered from it, but through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; by virtue of which, they have a part and portion in the blessings promised as follows.
(y) Vid. Buxtorf. Lexic. Talmudie. col. 2596. (z) R. Isaac Chizzuk Emuna, par. 2. c. 89. p. 469.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
13. Abrupt exclamation, as he breaks away impatiently from those who would involve us again in the curse of the law, by seeking justification in it, to "Christ," who "has redeemed us from its curse." The "us" refers primarily to the Jews, to whom the law principally appertained, in contrast to "the Gentiles" (Ga 3:14; compare Ga 4:3, 4). But it is not restricted solely to the Jews, as Alford thinks; for these are the representative people of the world at large, and their "law" is the embodiment of what God requires of the whole world. The curse of its non-fulfilment affects the Gentiles through the Jews; for the law represents that righteousness which God requires of all, and which, since the Jews failed to fulfil, the Gentiles are equally unable to fulfil. Ga 3:10, "As many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse," refers plainly, not to the Jews only, but to all, even Gentiles (as the Galatians), who seek justification by the law. The Jews' law represents the universal law which condemned the Gentiles, though with less clear consciousness on their part (Ro 2:1-29). The revelation of God's "wrath" by the law of conscience, in some degree prepared the Gentiles for appreciating redemption through Christ when revealed. The curse had to be removed from off the heathen, too, as well as the Jews, in order that the blessing, through Abraham, might flow to them. Accordingly, the "we," in "that we might receive the promise of the Spirit," plainly refers to both Jews and Gentiles.
redeemed us—bought us off from our former bondage (Ga 4:5), and "from the curse" under which all lie who trust to the law and the works of the law for justification. The Gentile Galatians, by putting themselves under the law, were involving themselves in the curse from which Christ has redeemed the Jews primarily, and through them the Gentiles. The ransom price He paid was His own precious blood (1Pe 1:18, 19; compare Mt 20:28; Ac 20:28; 1Co 6:20; 7:23; 1Ti 2:6; 2Pe 2:1; Re 5:9).
being made—Greek, "having become."
a curse for us—Having become what we were, in our behalf, "a curse," that we might cease to be a curse. Not merely accursed (in the concrete), but a curse in the abstract, bearing the universal curse of the whole human race. So 2Co 5:21, "Sin for us," not sinful, but bearing the whole sin of our race, regarded as one vast aggregate of sin. See Note there. "Anathema" means "set apart to God," to His glory, but to the person's own destruction. "Curse," an execration.
written—(De 21:23). Christ's bearing the particular curse of hanging on the tree, is a sample of the "general" curse which He representatively bore. Not that the Jews put to death malefactors by hanging; but after having put them to death otherwise, in order to brand them with peculiar ignominy, they hung the bodies on a tree, and such malefactors were accursed by the law (compare Ac 5:30; 10:39). God's providence ordered it so that to fulfil the prophecy of the curse and other prophecies, Jesus should be crucified, and so hang on the tree, though that death was not a Jewish mode of execution. The Jews accordingly, in contempt, call Him Tolvi, "the hanged one," and Christians, "worshippers of the hanged one"; and make it their great objection that He died the accursed death [Trypho, in Justin Martyr, p. 249] (1Pe 2:24). Hung between heaven and earth as though unworthy of either!
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