|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 6. - Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness (καθὼς Ἀβραὰμ ἐπίστευσε τῷ Θεῷ καὶ ἐλογίσθη αὐῷ εἰς δικαιοσύνην); was reckoned unto him for righteousness. The answer to the question in the foregoing verse is so obvious that the apostle goes on as if that answer had been given, namely, that it was simply in consequence of the hearing of faith that God conferred on any the Holy Spirit and his powers. This, he now adds, was in exact conformity with what was recorded of Abraham; as soon as Abraham heard the promise made to him, "So shall thy seed be," he believed it, and by the hearing of faith was justified. The mutual correspondence of the two cases lay in this, that in imparting to those believers the Holy Spirit, God showed that they were in his favour, were justified people, simply because of their faith; even as Abraham was shown to be in his favour, having likewise by faith been justified. The apostle weaves into his sentence the very words of Genesis 15:6, as they appear in the Septuagint, with scarcely any modification; the Septuagint reading thus: Καὶ ἐπίστευσεν Αβραμ τῷ Θεῷ καὶ ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικαιοσύνην. But in doing so he both himself feels, and will have his readers feel, that they are words of Scripture from which, as such, reliable conclusions might be drawn, as is shown by the next verse. In the Hebrew, however, the passage runs as in our Authorized Version, "He believed in the Lord, and he accounted it to him for righteousness." The words are quoted with substantially the like agreement with the Septuagint and divergence from the Hebrew also in Romans 4:3, and by St. James in his Epistle (James 2:23) (ἐπίστευσε δὲ Ἀβραὰμ, etc.). "It was reckoned;" in the Hebrew, "he reckoned it;" "it," that is, his believing: God regarded it as imparting to him perfect acceptableness, his sins no longer disqualifying him for being an object of the Divine favour. It is of the greatest importance to take note what the kind of faith was which God reckoned to him for righteousness. It was not simply a persuasion that what God says must be true. As Calvin remarks, Cain might have a hundred times exercised faith in what God had said to him, without thereby receiving righteousness from God. The reason why Abraham was justified by believing was this: a promise had been given him by God of his fatherly goodness towards him; and this word of God's he embraced as certainty. The faith, therefore, which the apostle is thinking of is the faith which has respect to some word of God which is of such a sort that reliance upon it will enable a man to repose in God's love to him for time and for eternity. The reference to Abraham's case which St. Paul makes in such very brief terms he expands in the fourth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans to a considerable length, ending with these words: "Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was reckoned to him [for righteousness]; but for our sake also, unto whom it shall be reckoned, who believe on him that raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up for our offences, and was raised for our justification." Christ's death and resurrection are God's word and guarantee to the whole human race, assuring us of his forgiveness and of his offer to us of eternal life. If we hear this word with faith, committing ourselves to his love, God on that ground at once justifies also us. It is evident that, in the apostle's view, the word "righteousness," as used in the recited passage of Genesis, does not mean "a righteous act," - that is, that Abraham's believing God's promise was viewed by Heaven with approval; but complete acceptableness investing Abraham himself. In consideration of that exercise of faith God accounted him a righteous man. The Greek phrase, ἐλογίσθη εἰς δικαιοσύνην, "was reckoned for righteousness," i.e. reckoned as being righteousness, is similar to λογισθῆναι εἰς οὐδέν, "reckoned as nought" (Acts 19:27); εἰς περιτομὴν λογισθήσεται, "reckoned for circumcision" (Romans 2:26); λογίζεται εἰς σπέρμα, "reckoned for a seed" (Romans 9:8). Are we to lifter from these two verses, 5 and 6, that in the apostle's view all who received spiritual gifts were thereby proved to be, or to have been, justified persons and in enjoyment of the Divine favour? We can hardly think this. The phenomena disclosed to us in the two Epistles addressed to the Corinthians. as to the moral and spiritual behaviour of some at least of their body, tend to show that individuals possessed of charisms were found in some instances to make a very vainglorious use of them, and needed to be reminded that the thaumaturgic gifts were of a fleeting character and of incomparably less value than qualities of moral goodness. Certainly Christ himself has told us that "many" will at the last be found to have been possessed of such miraculous gifts, whom nevertheless he "never knew." One of the very apostles was a Judas. Perhaps the solution is this: companies of men were dealt with in the diffusion of these gifts according as they were characterized, viewed each as a whole, though there might be individuals in each company imperfectly, very superficially, some perhaps not at all, animated by the sentiment generally prevailing in the body. If a community as a whole was pervaded extensively by a spirit of frank acceptance of the gospel doctrine and of pious devotion, its members brought by baptism into the "body which is Christ," the Holy Spirit made such a community his habitation (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16), and diffused his gifts among its members diversely and to all appearance Indiscriminately (1 Corinthians 12:13); at all events not in such wise discriminately as that degrees of personal holiness and acceptableness before God could at all be estimated as standing in proportion to the outward brilliancy of thaumaturgie gifts severally possessed.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Even as Abraham believed God,.... The apostle having observed, that the special grace and extraordinary gifts of the Spirit were received not through the preaching of the law, but through the doctrine of faith; by an easy transition, passes on to a further confirmation of the doctrine of justification by faith, by producing the instance of Abraham, what the Scripture says of him, and the promise made unto him; which is very appropriate to his purpose, since Abraham was certainly a righteous man, the first of the circumcision, and the head of the Jewish nation; and whom the false teachers much gloried in, and boasted of their being his seed, and of being circumcised as he was; and would fain have persuaded the Gentiles to the same practice, in imitation of him, and as necessary to their justification before God; whereas the apostle here shows, referring to Genesis 15:6 that Abraham was justified by faith, and not by any works whatever, much less by circumcision; for what he here refers to, was many years before his circumcision; and since therefore he was a justified person, declared to be so, before it and without it, it was not necessary to his justification, nor is it to any other person's: he
believed God. The object of faith is God, Father, Son, and Spirit; here Jehovah the Son seems principally intended, who in Genesis 15:1 is called the "Word of the Lord"; the essential Word, who was with God from everlasting, and was God, and in the fulness of time was made flesh and dwelt among men; and "Abraham's shield", the same the apostle in Ephesians 6:16 calls "the shield of faith"; meaning not the grace of faith, but Christ the object of faith; which faith lays hold on, and makes use of as a shield against the temptations of Satan: and also his "exceeding great reward"; his all in all, being made to him, as to all believers, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption: him he believed, not only that he was God, but he believed his word of promise, and in his power and faithfulness to fulfil it; which regarded not only his natural offspring, and a numerous race, the enjoyment of the land of Canaan, and many temporal good things in it, but the Messiah, and spiritual blessings in him: he "believed in the Lord", Genesis 15:6 in Jehovah the Word, in him as his shield, and exceeding great reward, in him as the Lord his righteousness:
and it was accounted to him for righteousness; that is, by God, whom he believed; for the sense is, not that Abraham ascribed righteousness to God, and celebrated his justice and faithfulness, as some; nor, as others, that Abraham was accounted a righteous man by the world; but that something was accounted by God to Abraham as his righteousness, which could not be the act of his faith; for faith is not a man's righteousness, neither in whole nor in part; faith and righteousness are two distinct things, and are often distinguished one from another in Scripture: besides, that which was accounted to Abraham for righteousness, is imputed to others also; see Romans 4:23 which can never be true of the act of his faith; but is of the object of it, the word of the Lord, his shield and exceeding great reward, the Lord his righteousness and strength, who is made or accounted, as to him, so to others, righteousness. The righteousness of Christ, whom he believed in, was accounted to him as his justifying righteousness now for faith to be accounted for righteousness, is all one as to be justified by faith; that is, by Christ, or by his righteousness imputed and received by faith; and if Abraham was justified this way, as he was, the apostle has his argument against the false teachers.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
6. The answer to the question in Ga 3:5 is here taken for granted, It was by the hearing of faith: following this up, he says, "Even as Abraham believed," &c. (Ge 15:4-6; Ro 4:3). God supplies unto you the Spirit as the result of faith, not works, just as Abraham obtained justification by faith, not by works (Ga 3:6, 8, 16; Ga 4:22, 26, 28). Where justification is, there the Spirit is, so that if the former comes by faith, the latter must also.
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