Galatians 3:23
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed.

New Living Translation
Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed.

English Standard Version
Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.

Berean Study Bible
Before this faith came, we were held in custody under the Law, locked up until faith should be revealed.

Berean Literal Bible
Now before faith came, we were held in custody under the Law, having been locked up until the faith being about to be revealed,

New American Standard Bible
But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.

King James Bible
But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed.

International Standard Version
Now before faith came about, we were held in custody and confined under the Law in preparation for the faith that was to be revealed.

NET Bible
Now before faith came we were held in custody under the law, being kept as prisoners until the coming faith would be revealed.

New Heart English Bible
But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, confined for the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
But until the faith would come, The Written Law had kept us while we were closed off to the faith that was going to be revealed.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
We were kept under control by Moses' laws until this faith came. We were under their control until this faith which was about to come would be revealed.

New American Standard 1977
But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.

Jubilee Bible 2000
But before faith came, we were under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

King James 2000 Bible
But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

American King James Version
But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up to the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

American Standard Version
But before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

Douay-Rheims Bible
But before the faith came, we were kept under the law shut up, unto that faith which was to be revealed.

Darby Bible Translation
But before faith came, we were guarded under law, shut up to faith [which was] about to be revealed.

English Revised Version
But before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

Webster's Bible Translation
But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up to the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

Weymouth New Testament
Before this faith came, we Jews were perpetual prisoners under the Law, living under restraints and limitations in preparation for the faith which was soon to be revealed.

World English Bible
But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, confined for the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

Young's Literal Translation
And before the coming of the faith, under law we were being kept, shut up to the faith about to be revealed,
Study Bible
The Purpose of the Law
22But the Scripture pronounces all things confined by sin, so that by faith in Jesus Christ, the promise might be given to those who believe. 23Before this faith came, we were held in custody under the Law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24So the Law became our guardian to lead us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.…
Cross References
John 3:34
For the One whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.

Romans 11:32
For God has consigned all men to disobedience, so that He may have mercy on them all.
Treasury of Scripture

But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up to the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

faith came.

Galatians 3:19,24,25 Why then serves the law? It was added because of transgressions, …

Galatians 4:1-4 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differs nothing …

Hebrews 12:2 Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the …

under.

Galatians 4:4,5,21 But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, …

Galatians 5:18 But if you be led of the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Romans 3:19 Now we know that what things soever the law said, it said to them …

Romans 6:14,15 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the …

1 Corinthians 9:20,21 And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to …

the faith.

Luke 10:23,24 And he turned him to his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are …

Hebrews 11:13,39,40 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having …

1 Peter 1:11,12 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which …

(23) Before faith came.--Before faith awoke into exercise, began to exist, or the preaching of Christ as its object.

We were kept.--Better, we were kept in ward, so as to bring out more clearly the force of the metaphor which runs through the verse. The Law was a kind of prison-house, in which we were kept shut up. It was a custody from which we were not permitted to escape--a stern guardian that we were made to obey.

Unto the faith . . .--With a view to the dispensation of faith which was in store for us. The object of this state of guardianship was to fit us for the dispensation of faith looming in the future.

Verse 23. - The feature which distinguishes this new paragraph (vers. 23, 24) from the preceding (vers. 21, 22) is the more distinct statement of the paedagogic function of the Law as preparatory to that economy of grace which was the ulterior purpose of the Lawgiver. In the meanwhile (the apostle here says) we were committed to the custody of the Law. But before faith came (πρὸ τοῦ δὲ ἐλθεῖν τὴν πίστιν). The "but" is an-tithetic to the closing clause of ver. 22, from which is taken up afresh the notion of faith, there spoken of as of old destined to become at the proper time the qualifier for the receiving of the promise. "Faith" denotes, not objectively, "the faith," that is, the gospel, as Galatians 1:23, a sense in which it is seldom used, and which is repelled here by the whole context; but subjectively, the principle of belief in One who gives of mere grace. This, by a bold and surely jubilant figure of speech, is personified as "coming" for men's deliverance, while the "Law" is also personified as the stern custodian under whose charge till then men were detained. Compare the frequent references in the Psalms to "light," "truth," "righteousness," "word," etc., being" sent," "commanded," by the Lord, as in angels, despatched for the help of his saints (Psalm 43:3; Psalm 40:11; Psalm 57:3; Psalm 107:20, etc.). We were kept under the Law, shut up (ὑπὸ νόμον ἐφρουρούμεθα συγκεκλεισμένοι [συγκλειόμενοι, Revised Text; so, according to Scrivener, L. T. Tr.]); we were kept in ward under the Law. shut up. The "we" recites, not exactly Jewish Christians or Jews, except per accidens, but God's people. The verb φρουρεῖν, keep carefully guarded, is used with a prominent notion of protection in Philippians 4:7; 1 Peter 1:5; whilst in 2 Corinthians 11:32, as here, the more prominent idea is that of preventing egress. Comp. Romans 7:6, "The Law wherein we were holden (κατειχόμεθα)." So Wisd. 17:16, of Egyptians, in the plague of miraculous darkness, as it were imprisoned, unable to move, Ἐφρουρεῖτο εἰς τὴν ἀσίδηρον εἱρκτὴν κατακλεισθείς, "Was kept ill ward, having been shut up into the prison which had no iron bars." The reading συγκλειόμενοι or συνκλειόμενοι, although highly witnessed to by uncial manuscripts, appears to be accounted for by the reading in B, συγκλεισμένοι (very probably a clerical blunder for συγκεκλεισμένοι), which may have given it vogue. The perfect participle seems alone suitable to the passage, q.d. shut up for good and all. The present participle would require to be understood of the repression of a constantly repeated endeavour to escape (or, what?). As the verb συνέκλεισεν occurs in the preceding verse, συγκεκλεισμένοι takes the shade of meaning, "shut up as I said." Unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed (εἰς τὴν μέλλουσαν πίστιν ἀποκαλυφθῆναι). "Unto;" with reference to, with an eye to, the coming economy of free grace, to which they were then to be transferred. The same preposition (εἰς) is used in the same manner in the next verse," unto Christ." In the words, τὴν μέλλουσαν πίστιν ἀποκαλυφθῆναι, we have the same form of sentence as in Romans 8:18, Πρὸς τὴν μέλλουσαν δόξαν ἀποκαλυφθῆναι, "For the glory which shall hereafter be revealed." In both cases, the emphatic position of μέλλουσαν appears to indicate, not merely that the manifestation was future, but that the future would be sure to bring it; the predetermining purpose of God made it certain. "Revealed:" the principle of faith as accepting a gift bestowed of free grace, though not unknown to the pious of former ages (Romans 3:21) - for how in any age could one con-scions of sin look for any gift at the hands of the Almighty except thus? - was destined, under the "gospel of the grace of God," to come forth into conspicuous prominence as the one supremely commanding element of religious sentiment. But before faith came,.... This is to be understood, not of the grace of faith, which was under the former dispensation, as now; the Old Testament saints had the same Spirit of faith, and the same grace of faith, as for its nature, object, and use, as New Testament saints have; Adam, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, &c. believed in Christ, and were justified by faith in his righteousness, as we are. It is much better to understand it of the doctrine of faith, which though preached to Adam, and by Noah, and to Abraham, and by Isaiah, and others, yet not so clearly, largely, and fully, as by Jesus Christ and his apostles; so that the times of the Gospel may be called the times of faith, in comparison of the times of the law, and which some think is here meant; but it is best to interpret it of Christ, the object of faith, who was to come, and is come in the flesh, to fulfil the law; and, by so doing, has put an end to it; and to redeem his people from under it, and to save them with an everlasting salvation; for before this his coming in the flesh, the people of the Jews, of whom the apostle was one, were under the law:

we were kept under the law; as persons in a garrison, as the word signifies; they were kept distinct and separate from the rest of the nations of the world, and had neither civil nor religious conversation with them; and so were preserved in some measure both from their impieties and idolatries, which otherwise they were naturally prone to; and as a distinct people, unto the coming of the Messiah, who was to arise from among them; so that their being kept under the law in this sense, was both for their honour and their safety: though the meaning may also be, that they were kept under it as persons under a military guard, as the word likewise imports; and signifies, that the law kept a strict guard and a watchful eye over them, as the Roman soldier had over Paul, that kept him, and held fast the chain in his hand, with which he was bound, that he might not get loose and escape from him; see Acts 28:16 to which the apostle seems here to allude; the law kept them close to the discharge of their duty, and held them fast as prisoners; and which is more fully expressed in the next clause,

shut up. The Syriac version reads this in connection with the former, thus, "the law kept us shut up", as in a prison; and the same way reads the Arabic version; which shows the state and condition the Jews were in under the law, and how they were treated by it; not as good and righteous persons, but as persons in debt, as criminals and malefactors; a prison is made, and so the law, for such sort of persons; the law considered and used them as sinners, as criminals convicted and condemned; it did itself accuse, convict, and pronounce them guilty, and condemned them to punishment; and detained them as prisoners in its dark dungeon, where they had little light and comfort; and were as in a pit, wherein is no water; though they lay here as prisoners of hope, in expectation of the Messiah's coming; who was to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound, and to say to the prisoners, Come forth, and to them that sit in darkness, Show yourselves. Also the allusion may be to the custom of the eastern nations, in the usage of their slaves and captives; who in the daytime used to grind at a mill in a prison house, and in the night time were put down into a pit and shut up, and a mill stone put to the mouth of the pit (p); and so describes the state of bondage and slavery the Jews were in under the law, who differed nothing from servants, to whom the saints under the Gospel dispensation are opposed, Galatians 3:26 as being the children of God by faith in Christ. And in this uncomfortable condition they continued,

unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed; that is, until Christ the object of faith came, who was to be revealed, or made manifest in the flesh; who, before his incarnation, not only lay in the bosom of the Father, but was in a great measure hid under the types and prophecies of the Old Testament; which though they gave some hints of him, yet but obscure ones, in comparison of the revelation made of him by his appearance in human nature; by the testimonies of his Father by a voice from heaven of angels, of John the Baptist, and others; and by his own doctrines and miracles, and by the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.

(p) Schindler Lex. Pentaglott. in voce col. 1712. 23. faith—namely, that just mentioned (Ga 3:22), of which Christ is the object.

kept—Greek, "kept in ward": the effect of the "shutting up" (Ga 3:22; Ga 4:2; Ro 7:6).

unto—"with a view to the faith," etc. We were, in a manner, morally forced to it, so that there remained to us no refuge but faith. Compare the phrase, Ps 78:50, Margin; Ps 31:8.

which should afterwards, etc.—"which was afterwards to be revealed."3:23-25 The law did not teach a living, saving knowledge; but, by its rites and ceremonies, especially by its sacrifices, it pointed to Christ, that they might be justified by faith. And thus it was, as the word properly signifies, a servant, to lead to Christ, as children are led to school by servants who have the care of them, that they might be more fully taught by Him the true way of justification and salvation, which is only by faith in Christ. And the vastly greater advantage of the gospel state is shown, under which we enjoy a clearer discovery of Divine grace and mercy than the Jews of old. Most men continue shut up as in a dark dungeon, in love with their sins, being blinded and lulled asleep by Satan, through wordly pleasures, interests, and pursuits. But the awakened sinner discovers his dreadful condition. Then he feels that the mercy and grace of God form his only hope. And the terrors of the law are often used by the convincing Spirit, to show the sinner his need of Christ, to bring him to rely on his sufferings and merits, that he may be justified by faith. Then the law, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, becomes his loved rule of duty, and his standard for daily self-examination. In this use of it he learns to depend more simply on the Saviour.
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