|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 14. - Two results are here stated as having flowed from the abrogation of the Mosaic Law which was effected by the crucifixion of Jesus: one, the participation of Gentiles in "Abraham's blessing," to which they could not have been admitted as long as the Law was authorized to shut them out from God's covenant as unclean; the other, the impartation to God's people, upon their faith only, apart from acts of ceremonial obedience, of the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. Are these stated as co-ordinate results, in the same way as a repeated ἵνα ("in order that") introduces co-ordinate results in Romans 7:13; 2 Corinthians 9:2; Ephesians 6:19, 20? Or is the second a consequence of the first? In favour of the first view, it may be said that, in point of fact, Gentiles, as such, were not admitted into a participation in Abraham's blessing till some time after the day of Pentecost. But on the other hand, it may be urged
(1) that, though not as yet actually admitted, yet in the Divine purpose, and in the ordering of the conditions of the case, they might have come in, - the door was open, though the threshold not actually crossed; and
(2) that their admissibility may be supposed to have been in the Divine counsels the prerequisite condition of the Holy Spirit being imparted, it not being fitting that the Spirit should be given so long as the Law was, so to speak, standing there, authorized to debar from this, the most essential portion of "Abraham's blessing," any who were partakers of Abraham's blessing. In the three passages referred to as favouring the construing of the two clauses as co-ordinate, we have not as here two different results, but one and the same, only in the second clause more fully described. The second view seems, therefore, the more probable one. That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ (ἵνα εἰς τὰ ἔθνη ἡ εὐλογία τοῦ Ἀβραὰμ γένηται ἐν Ξριστῷ Ἰησοῦ: so most recent editors read, in place of Ἰησοῦ Ξριστῷ); that upon "the nations" might crone the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus. The phrase, εἰς τὰ ἔθνη... γένητα, is illustrated by the use of γίγνεσθαι εἰς, "arrive at," or "accrue to," in Acts 21:17; Acts 25:15; Revelation 16:2. For the preposition εἰς we may also comp. Romans 3:22, "Unto (εἰς) all and upon (έπὶ) all." By τὰ ἔθνη, as the whole context shows, the apostle means in particular "the Gentiles," the non-Jews, as such. At the same time, the phrase is evidently used, as found ready at hand in the passage cited by him in ver. 8, "In thee shall all the nations (ἔθνη) be blessed," which passage also suggested the notion of "the blessing of Abraham." It had therein been foretold that all the nations should, by exercising the faith of Abraham, obtain the same blessing; and (says the apostle) we see now by what method the benefit has been brought to them. "In Christ Jesus;" not merely by him; the blessing is, so to speak, immanent in Christ. both procured by him and obtained by the nations through their coming by faith into union with him. Comp. Ephesians 1:6, 7, "His grace which he freely bestowed upon us in the Beloved; in whom we have our redemption;" Colossians 2:10, "In him ye are made full;" and the like. "The blessing of Abraham." The expression, being drawn from the passages in Genesis in which the Lord assures Abraham that "he would bless him," and that "in him all nations should be blessed," must be taken to import the Divine good will and whatever benefits would therefrom result. Men arrive at t is "benediction" by being justified; but justification is only the entrance into it, and not the whole blessing itself. It is styled Abraham's blessing, as having been emphatically declared to have been possessed by the patriarch, "the father" of all who should thereafter receive it. That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith (ἵνα τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν τοῦ Πνεύματος λάβωμεν διὰ τῆς πίστεως). The pronoun "we" points, not to the Israelites as such, nor to Israelite believers in particular, but to those who were viewed as God's covenant people. These had hitherto been Abraham's natural seed only; and had also hitherto been under the Law. But the time had come when they were to receive the full "adoption of sons," and therewith the Spirit of God's Son (Galatians 4:5, 6); which, however, could not come to pass until the Law, "the yoke of slavery," had been cleared out of the way, opening the gate to God's benediction to all believers, whether Jews or Gentiles. The Law and the Spirit could not coexist. Where the Law had sway, there was tutor-ship (παιδαγωγία) and slavery. Such, it is true, was needed, so long as the Spirit was not there; for moral beings, forming a people of God's, must be under some Law; and, if there was not a law written on the "fleshy tables of the heart" by God's Spirit, there behoved to be one embodied in an outward code of ordinances, which should coerce men's frowardness and keep them under discipline. But when this outward code had been taken out of the way," nailed to Christ's cross," then the people of God could not be left without the Spirit - the Spirit of holiness, as well as, or rather, because also, the Spirit of adoption; which accordingly was forthwith imparted, the sole condition of the bestowment being their living obedient faith, felt and by baptism professed, in Christ and in God. Comp. Ephesians 4:13-18, as containing a full presentment of these facts relative to the introduction of the new covenant, and in the same order of sequence. Thus the apostle has triumphantly returned to the thesis from which he had started in the two first verses of the chapter - Christ crucified, and the receiving of the Spirit without works of the Law. "The promise of the Spirit" is the Spirit which had been promised; the word "promise" here denoting, not as in Hebrews 11:33, the word assuring a subsequent bestowment, but as in Luke 24:49 and Hebrews 11:39, the bestowment itself. The apostle points not merely to such passages of the Old Testament as had definitely fore-announced the outpouring of God's Spirit (Joel 2:38; Isaiah 44:3; and the like), but the whole "kingdom of God," or "world to come," whose blessedness therewith came.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
That the blessing of Abraham,.... The same blessing Abraham enjoyed, even justification by the righteousness of Christ; and what was promised to Abraham, that in him, his seed, that is Christ, the Gentiles should be blessed, or justified; for though this blessing may in general comprise every spiritual blessing, yet it chiefly regards that of justification; or a deliverance from the curse of the law, and which is the end of Christ's being made a curse, that this blessedness
might come on the Gentiles; the uncircumcision, as well as the circumcision; see Romans 4:9 that is, upon as many of them as were ordained unto eternal life, and in consequence of that believe in Christ; quite contrary to a Jewish notion, that
"no blessing dwells but upon an Israelite (a):''
now though this blessing, as all other spiritual ones, were laid up in the covenant of grace, put into the hands of Christ, and God's elect blessed therewith, as considered in him, yet the curse of the law for their transgressions stood in the way of their personal enjoyment of it, to their peace and comfort in their own souls; wherefore Christ is made a curse for them, to make way for the blessing to take place upon them; which is by an act of God's grace imputed to them, and is received by faith:
through Jesus Christ; or "in Jesus Christ", as the words may be read; meaning either, that this blessing comes upon the Gentiles that were in Christ, chosen in him, in union with him, and represented by him, both in the covenant and on the cross; or else that Christ is the Mediator, as from whom, so through whom, this, as every blessing of grace, comes to the children of God:
that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith; Beza puts the copulative and to this clause, reading it, "and that we", &c. as does the Ethiopic version; thereby more clearly pointing out this to be another end of Christ's being made a curse for us: by "the promise of the Spirit" may be meant, either by an "hypallage", the Spirit of promise, who opens and applies the promises; or the Spirit promised, not as a spirit of regeneration, conversion, and faith; for, as such, he cannot be received by faith; Since, antecedent to his being so, there can be no faith; but rather as a spirit of adoption, in respect to which he is said to be received, Romans 8:15 and this blessing of adoption, as in consequence of redemption from under the law, its curse and condemnation, Galatians 4:4. Or else a spiritual promise, in distinction from the temporal promise of the land of Canaan, made to Abraham and his natural seed, and means the promise of eternal life and happiness in the world to come; which promise is now received by faith, and that in consequence of the sufferings and death of Christ the testator; see Hebrews 9:15.
(a) Zohar in Exod. fol. 51. 3.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
14. The intent of "Christ becoming a curse for us"; "To the end that upon the Gentiles the blessing of Abraham (that is, promised to Abraham, namely, justification by faith) might come in Christ Jesus" (compare Ga 3:8).
that we might receive the promise of the Spirit—the promised Spirit (Joe 2:28, 29; Lu 24:49). This clause follows not the clause immediately preceding (for our receiving the Spirit is not the result of the blessing of Abraham coming on the Gentiles), but "Christ hath redeemed us," &c.
through faith—not by works. Here he resumes the thought in Ga 3:2. "The Spirit from without, kindles within us some spark of faith Whereby we lay hold of Christ, and even of the Spirit Himself, that He may dwell within us" [Flacius].
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