Galatians 3:22
But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
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(22) The scripture.—Slightly personified.

Hath concluded.—The same peculiar word occurs in Romans 11:32, with a similar sense. It means to “shut up,” “hem in,” “prevent from straying either to the right hand or to the left,” as a shepherd shuts up his flock in the fold.

All.—This is put in the neuter gender, but only to give a more complete universality to the statement. What is meant is “all mankind.”

The promise by faith of Jesus Christ.—The promise which originates in faith in Christ, which derives its fulfilment from faith, is due to faith.



Galatians 3:22.

The Apostle uses here a striking and solemn figure, which is much veiled for the English reader by the ambiguity attaching to the word ‘concluded.’ It literally means ‘shut up,’ and is to be taken in its literal sense of confining, and not in its secondary sense of inferring. So, then, we are to conceive of a vast prison-house in which mankind is confined. And then, very characteristically, the Apostle passes at once to another metaphor when he goes on to say ‘under sin.’ What a moment before had presented itself to his vivid imagination as a great dungeon is now represented as a heavy weight, pressing down upon those beneath; if, indeed, we are not, perhaps, rather to think of the low roof of the dark dungeon as weighing on the captives.

Further, he says that Scripture has driven men into this captivity. That, of course, cannot mean that revelation makes us sinners, but it does mean that it makes us more guilty, and that it declares the fact of human sinfulness as no other voice has ever done. And then the grimness of the picture is all relieved and explained, and the office ascribed to God’s revelation harmonised with God’s love, by the strong, steady beam of light that falls from the last words, which tell us that the prisoners have not been bound in chains for despair or death, but in order that, gathered together in a common doleful destiny, they may become recipients of a common blessed salvation, and emerge into liberty and light through faith in Jesus Christ.

So here are three things--the prison-house, its guardian, and its breaker. ‘The Scripture hath shut up all under sin, in order that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given unto all them that believe.’

I. First, then, note the universal prison-house.

Now the Apostle says two things--and we may put away the figure and look at the facts that underlie it. The one is that all sin is imprisonment, the other is that all men are in that dungeon, unless they have come out of it through faith in Jesus Christ.

All sin is imprisonment. That is the direct contrary of the notion that many people have. They say to themselves, ‘Why should I be fettered and confined by these antiquated restrictions of a conventional morality? Why should I not break the bonds, and do as I like?’ And they laugh at Christian people who recognise the limitations under which God’s law has put them; and tell us that we are ‘cold-blooded folks who live by rule,’ and contrast their own broad ‘emancipation from narrow prejudice.’ But the reality is the other way. The man who does wrong is a slave in the measure in which he does it. If you want to find out--and mark this, you young people, who may be deceived by the false contrasts between the restraints of duty and the freedom of living a dissolute life--if you want to find out how utterly ‘he that committeth sin is the slave of sin,’ try to break it off, and you will find it out fast enough. We all know, alas! the impotence of the will when it comes to hand grips with some evil to which we have become habituated; and how we determine and determine, and try, and fail, and determine again, with no better result. We are the slaves of our own passions; and no man is free who is hindered by his lower self from doing that which his better self tells him he ought to do. The tempter comes to you, and says, ‘Come and do this thing, just for once. You can leave off when you like, you know. There is no need to do it a second time.’ And when you have done it, he changes his note, and says, ‘Ah! you are in, and you cannot get out. You have done it once; and in my vocabulary once means twice, and once and twice mean _always_.’

Insane people are sometimes tempted into a house of detention by being made to believe that it is a grand mansion, where they are just going to pay a flying visit, and can come away when they like. But once inside the walls, they never get past the lodge gates any more. The foolish birds do not know that there is lime on the twigs, and their little feet get fastened to the branch, and their wings flutter in vain. ‘He that committeth sin is the slave of sin--shut up,’ dungeoned, ‘under sin.’

But do not forget, either, the other metaphor in our text, in which the Apostle, with characteristic rapidity, and to the horror of rhetorical propriety, passes at once from the thought of a dungeon to the thought of an impending weight, and says, ‘Shut up _under_ sin.’

What does that mean? It means that we are guilty when we have done wrong; and it means that we are under penalties which are sure to follow. No deed that we do, howsoever it may fade from the tablets of our memory, but writes in visible characters, in proportion to its magnitude, upon our characters and lives. All human acts have perpetual consequences. The kick of the rifle against the shoulder of the man that fires it is as certain as the flight of the bullet from its muzzle. The chalk cliffs that rise above the Channel entomb and perpetuate the relics of myriads of evanescent lives; and our fleeting deeds are similarly preserved in our present selves. Everything that a man wills, whether it passes into external act or not, leaves, in its measure, ineffaceable impressions on himself. And so we are not only dungeoned in, but weighed upon by, and lie under, the evil that we do.

Nor, dear friends, dare I pass in silence what is too often passed in silence in the modern pulpit, the plain fact that there is a future waiting for each of us beyond the grave, of which the most certain characteristic, certified by our own forebodings, required by the reasonableness of creation, and made plain by the revelation of Scripture, is that it is a future of retribution, where we shall have to carry our works; and as we have brewed so shall we drink; and the beds that we have made we shall have to lie upon. ‘God shut up all under sin.’

Note, again, the universality of the imprisonment.

Now I am not going to exaggerate, I hope. I want to keep well within the limits of fact, and to say nothing that is not endorsed by your own consciences, if you will be honest with yourselves. And I say that the Bible does not charge men universally with gross transgressions. It does not talk about the virtues that grow in the open as if they were splendid vices; but it does say, and I ask you if our own hearts do not tell us that it says truly, that no man is, or has been, does, or has done, that which his own conscience tells him he should have been and done. We are all ready to admit faults, in a general way, and to confess that we have come short of what our own consciousness tells us we ought to be. But I want you to take the other step, and to remember that since we each stand in a personal relation to God, therefore all imperfections, faults, negligences, shortcomings, and, still more, transgressions of morality, or of the higher aspirations of our lives, are sins. Because sin--to use fine words--is the correlative of God. Or, to put it into plainer language, the deeds which in regard to law may be crimes, or those which in regard to morality may be vices, or in regard to our own convictions of duty may be shortcomings, seeing they all have some reference to Him, assume a very much graver character, and they are all sins.

Oh, brethren, if we realise how intimately and inseparably we are knit to God, and how everything that we do, and do not do, but should have done, has an aspect in reference to Him, I think we should be less unwilling to admit, and less tinged with levity and carelessness in admitting, that all our faults are transgressions of His law, and we should find ourselves more frequently on our knees before Him, with the penitent words on our lips and in our hearts, ‘Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight.’

That was the prayer of a man who had done a foul evil in other people’s sight; who had managed to accumulate about as many offences to as many people in one deed as was possible. For, as a king he had sinned against his nation, as a friend he had sinned against his companion, as a captain he had sinned against his brave subordinate, as a husband he had sinned against his wife, and he had sinned against Bathsheba. And yet, with all that tangle of offences against all these people, he says, ‘Against Thee, Thee only.’ Yes! Because, accurately speaking, the _sin_ had reference to God, and to God alone. And I wish for myself and for you to cultivate the habit of connecting, thus, all our actions, and especially our imperfections and our faults, with the thought of God, that we may learn how universal is the enclosure of man in this dreadful prison-house.

II. And so, I come, in the second place, to look at the guardian of the prison.

That is a strange phrase of my text attributing the shutting of men up in this prison-house to the merciful revelation of God in the Scripture. And it is made still more striking and strange by another edition of the same expression in the Epistle to the Romans, where Paul directly traces the ‘concluding all in disobedience’ to God Himself.

There may be other subtle thoughts connected with that expression which I do not need to enter upon now. But one that I would dwell upon, for a moment, is this, that one great purpose of Scripture is to convince us that we are sinful in God’s sight. I do not need to remind you, I suppose, how that was, one might almost say, the dominant intention of the whole of the ceremonial and moral law of Israel, and explains its many else inexplicable and apparently petty commandments and prohibitions. They were all meant to emphasise the difference between right and wrong, obedience and disobedience, and so to drive home to men’s hearts the consciousness that they had broken the commandments of the living God. And although the Gospel comes with a very different guise from that ancient order, and is primarily gift and not law, a Gospel of forgiveness, and not the promulgation of duty or the threatening of condemnation, yet it, too, has for one of its main purposes, which must be accomplished in us before it can reach its highest aim in us, the kindling in men’s hearts of the same consciousness that they are sinful men in God’s sight.

Ah, brethren, we all need it. There is nothing that we need more than to have driven deep into us the penetrating point of that conviction. There must be some external standard by which men may be convinced of their sinfulness, for they carry no such standard within them. Your conscience is only _you_ judging on moral questions, and, of course, as you change, it will change too. A man’s whole state determines the voice with which conscience shall speak to him, and so the worse he is, and the more he needs it, the less he has it. The rebels cut the telegraph wires. The waves break the bell that hangs on the reef, and so the black rocks get many a wreck to gnaw with their sharp teeth. A man makes his conscience dumb by the very sins that require a conscience trumpet-tongued to reprehend them. And therefore it needs that God should speak from Heaven, and say to us, ‘_Thou_ art the man,’ or else we pass by all these grave things that I am trying to urge upon you now, and fall back upon our complacency and our levity and our unwillingness to take stock of ourselves, and front the facts of our condition. And so we build up a barrier between ourselves and God, and God’s grace, which nothing short of that grace and an omnipotent love and an all-powerful Redeemer can ever pull down.

I wish to urge in a few words, yet with much earnestness, this thought, that until we have laid to heart God’s message about our own personal sinfulness we have not got to the place where we can in the least understand the true meaning of His Gospel, or the true work of His Son. May I say that I, for one, am old-fashioned enough to look with great apprehension on certain tendencies of present-day presentations of Christianity which, whilst they dwell much upon the social blessings which it brings, do seem to me to be in great peril of obscuring the central characteristic of the Gospel, that it is addressed to sinful men, and that the only way by which individuals can come to the possession of any of its blessings is by coming as penitent sinners, and casting themselves on the mercy of God in Jesus Christ? The beginning of all lies here, where Paul puts it, ‘the Scripture hath herded all men,’ in droves, into the prison, that it might have mercy upon all.

Dear friend, as the old proverb has it, deceit lurks in generalities. I have no doubt you are perfectly willing to admit that all are sinful. Come a little closer to the truth, I beseech you, and say each is sinful, and I am one of the captives.

III. And so, lastly, the breaker of the prison-house.

I need not spend your time in commenting on the final words of this text. Suffice it to gather their general purport and scope. The apparently stern treatment which God by revelation applies to the whole mass of mankind is really the tenderest beneficence. He has shut them up in the prison-house in order that, thus shut up, they may the more eagerly apprehend and welcome the advent of the Deliverer. He tells us each our state, in order that we may the more long for, and the more closely grasp, the great mercy which reverses the state. And so how shallow and how unfair it is to talk about evangelical Christianity as being gloomy, stern, or misanthropical! You do not call a doctor unkind because he tells an unsuspecting patient that his disease is far advanced, and that if it is not cured it will be fatal. No more should a man turn away from Christianity, or think it harsh and sour, because it speaks plain truths. The question is, are they true? not, are they unpleasant?

If you and I, and all our fellows, are shut up in this prison-house of sin, then it is quite clear that none of us can do anything to get ourselves out. And so the way is prepared for that great message with which Jesus opened His ministry, and which, whilst it has a far wider application, and reference to social as well as to individual evils, begins with the proclamation of liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.

There was once a Roman emperor who wished that all his enemies had one neck, that he might slay them all at one blow. The wish is a fact in regard to Christ and His work, for by it all our tyrants have been smitten to death by one stroke; and the death of Jesus Christ has been the death of sin and death and hell--of sin in its power, in its guilt, and in its penalty. He has come into the prison-house, and torn the bars away, and opened the fetters, and every man may, if he will, come out into the blessed sunshine and expatiate there.

And if, brethren, it is true that the universal prison-house is opened by the death of Jesus Christ, who is the Propitiation for the sins of the whole world, and the power by which the most polluted may become clean, then there follows, as plainly, that the only thing which we have to do is, recognising and feeling our bound impotence, to stretch out chained hands and take the gift that He brings. Since all is done for each of us, and since none of us can do sufficient for himself to break the bond, then what we should do is to trust to Him who has broken every chain and let the oppressed go free.

Oh, dear friend, if you want to get to the heart of the sweetness and the blessedness and power of the Gospel, you must begin here, with the clear and penitent consciousness that you are a sinful man in God’s sight, and can do nothing to cleanse, help, or liberate yourself. Is Jesus Christ the breaker of the bond for you? Do you learn from Him what your need is? Do you trust yourself to Him for Pardon, for cleansing, for emancipation? Unless you do, you will never know His most precious preciousness, and you have little right to call yourself a Christian. If you do, oh, than a great light will shine in the prison-house, and your chains will drop from your wrists, and the iron door will open of its own accord, and you will come out into the morning sunshine of a new day, because you have confessed and abhorred the bondage into which you have cast yourselves, and accepted the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free.

3:19-22 If that promise was enough for salvation, wherefore then serveth the law? The Israelites, though chosen to be God's peculiar people, were sinners as well as others. The law was not intended to discover a way of justification, different from that made known by the promise, but to lead men to see their need of the promise, by showing the sinfulness of sin, and to point to Christ, through whom alone they could be pardoned and justified. The promise was given by God himself; the law was given by the ministry of angels, and the hand of a mediator, even Moses. Hence the law could not be designed to set aside the promise. A mediator, as the very term signifies, is a friend that comes between two parties, and is not to act merely with and for one of them. The great design of the law was, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ, might be given to those that believe; that, being convinced of their guilt, and the insufficiency of the law to effect a righteousness for them, they might be persuaded to believe on Christ, and so obtain the benefit of the promise. And it is not possible that the holy, just, and good law of God, the standard of duty to all, should be contrary to the gospel of Christ. It tends every way to promote it.But the Scripture - The Old Testament (see the note at John 5:39), containing the Law of Moses.

Hath concluded all under sin - Has "shut up" (συνέκλεισεν sunekleisen) all under the condemnation of sin; that is, has declared all people, no matter what their rank and external character, to be sinners. Of course, they cannot be justified by that law which declares them to be guilty, and which condemns them, any more than the Law of the land will acquit a murderer, and pronounce him innocent, at the same time that it holds him to be guilty. In regard to the meaning of the expression used here; see the note at Romans 11:32; compare Romans 3:9, Romans 3:19. "That the promise by faith of Jesus Christ, etc." That the promise referred to in the transaction with Abraham, the promise of justification and life by faith in the Messiah. Here we see one design of the Law. It was to show that they could not be justified by their own works, to hedge up their way in regard to justification by their own righteousness, and to show them their need of a better righteousness. The Law accomplishes the same end now. It shows people that they are guilty; and it does it in order that they may be brought under the influence of the pure system of the gospel, and become interested in the promises which are connected with eternal salvation.

22. But—as the law cannot give life or righteousness [Alford]. Or the "But" means, So far is righteousness from being of the law, that the knowledge of sin is rather what comes of the law [Bengel].

the scripture—which began to be written after the time of the promise, at the time when the law was given. The written letter was needed SO as PERMANENTLY to convict man of disobedience to God's command. Therefore he says, "the Scripture," not the "Law." Compare Ga 3:8, "Scripture," for "the God of the Scripture."

concluded—"shut up," under condemnation, as in a prison. Compare Isa 24:22, "As prisoners gathered in the pit and shut up in the prison." Beautifully contrasted with "the liberty wherewith Christ makes free," which follows, Ga 3:7, 9, 25, 26; 5:1; Isa 61:1.

all—Greek neuter, "the universe of things": the whole world, man, and all that appertains to him.

under sin—(Ro 3:9, 19; 11:32).

the promise—the inheritance promised (Ga 3:18).

by faith of Jesus Christ—that is which is by faith in Jesus Christ.

might be given—The emphasis is on "given": that it might be a free gift; not something earned by the works of the law (Ro 6:23).

to them that believe—to them that have "the faith of (in) Jesus Christ" just spoken of.

But the Sripture hath concluded all under sin: it pleased God to give a law, which, if Adam had continued in his estate of innocence, might have given life; but considering man in his lapsed state, that now is not possible: Romans 2:10: There is none righteous, no not one: and Ephesians 2:3: We are all children of wrath.

That the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe; that the promises of life and salvation might be given to those who, according to the new covenant of the gospel, should receive and accept of the Mediator, and the terms of salvation which God offers to us in the gospel; where these promises are exhibited upon condition of believing. Though, upon our first reflection upon it, it may seem strange to us, that God, having in his eternal counsels fixed the salvation of man upon a conenant of grace, and his believing in Jesus Christ, should in time first propound a covenant of works: Do this, and live; yet, upon second thoughts, this will appear necessary; for till man was a transgressor by breaking the law, and violating the first covenant, there was no room for a Mediator, no cause for men’s applying themselves to a Mediator. God therefore first gave out the covenant of works, and suffered man to break it; and then he revealed the Mediator to lapsed man; that so they who should believe in him might obtain the promise of life, to which by the fall they had forfeited their right.

But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin,.... By the "Scripture" is meant, either the writing of the law in particular, the killing letter, or the whole Scripture, or God in it; and who by and in it has shown, declared, and proved, that all the individuals of human nature, Jews and Gentiles, and all that is in them, and done by them, are under the power and dominion of sin, defiled by it, and involved in the guilt of it; for it is not "all persons", but "all things", belonging to all persons; all the members of their bodies, and faculties of their souls; all their thoughts, inclinations, and intentions; all their works and services, even their best righteousness, which is as filthy rags; all are declared to be sinful and polluted, and men on account of them to be guilty before God, and liable to punishment; from whence there can be no escape by the law of works; for they are like men concluded, or shut up in a prison, from which there is no apparent likelihood of deliverance: now the Spirit of God, discovering to men this their wretched and desperate condition, under the law and sin, reveals Christ and his righteousness to them, and enables and encourages them to believe in him, by whom only they can be justified from all things, they cannot by the law of Moses, in which they see themselves shut up, as in a prison:

that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe; by the "promise" is intended, the promise of life and salvation, and particularly of a justifying righteousness; which is given, not merited; righteousness is a gift, a gift of grace, a free gift, and so is eternal life; salvation in all its parts is of free grace; Christ is a free gift, and so are all things along with him; yea, faith itself, by which they are received, it is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; Christ is the author and finisher, as well as the object of it; and therefore here called "the faith of Jesus Christ": and such that have it, to them the promise, or the things promised, righteousness and life are given, which the law could not give; not to them that work, but to them that believe: thus the law is so far from being against the promises of God, that it is subservient to them; for though the law has no tendency in itself to bring persons to Christ, and to believe in him for righteousness, yet this concluding men under sin, showing them their desperate, and hopeless, and helpless condition, the Spirit of God takes occasion from hence to reveal Christ unto them, and to enable them as perishing creatures to venture on him, and lay hold on the hope set before them in the Gospel; and so they come to enjoy the grand promise of it, even life and salvation by Christ.

But the {s} scripture hath concluded {t} all under sin, that the {u} promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

(s) By this word scripture he means the Law.

(t) All mankind, and whatever comes from mankind.

(u) In every one of these words, there lies an argument against the merits of works: for all these words, promise, faith, Christ, might be given, to believers, are against meritorious works, and not one of them can be included as a meritorious work.

Galatians 3:22. But the case supposed (ἐδόθη νόμος ὁ δυνάμ. ζωοποιῆσαι) does not exist: for, on the contrary, according to the Scriptures all men have been subjected to the dominion of sin, and the purpose of God therein was, that the promised salvation should not come from the law, but should be bestowed on believers on account of faith in Christ. What sort of position is assigned under these circumstances to the law, is then stated in Galatians 3:23.

συνέκλεισεν ἡ γραφὴ κ.τ.λ.] Scripture is personified, as in Galatians 3:8. That which God has done, because it is divinely revealed and attested in Scripture (see Romans 3:9-19) and thereby appears an infallible certainty, is represented as the act of Scripture, which the latter, as in its utterances the professed self-revelation of God, has accomplished. The Scripture—that is, when regarded apart from the personification, God, according to the divine testimony of the Scripture—has brought all into ward under sin, that is, has put the whole of mankind without exception into the relation of bondage, in which sin (comp. Romans 3:9) has them, as it were, under lock and key, so that they cannot escape from this control and attain to moral freedom. On the figurative expression, and on the conception of the matter as a divine measure (not a mere declaration), compare on Romans 11:32. Following Chrysostom (ἠλέγξεν) and others, Hermann finds the sense: “per legem demum cognitum esse peccatum” (Romans 7:7 f., Galatians 3:19 ff.), which, however, does not correspond with the significance of the carefully-chosen συνέκλεισεν, and is also at variance with ἡ γραφή, which is by no means—as, following the Fathers (but not Theodoret), Beza, Calvin, Baumgarten-Crusius and others think—equivalent to νόμος, but denotes the O.T., whilst ὁ νόμος in the whole connection is the institute of the law. The bond of guilt which is implied in the dominion of sin is obvious of itself, without any need for explaining ἁμαρτίαν as the guilt of sin.

Moreover, the emphasis is on the prefixed συνέκλεισεν: included, so that freedom, that is, the attainment of δικαιοσύνη, is not to be thought of. Συγκλείειν, however, does not denote: to include together, with one another, as Bengel, Usteri, and others hold (not even in Romans 11:32), which is clearly proved by the fact that the word is very often used of the shutting up of one, unaccompanied by others (1 Samuel 24:19; Psalm 31:9; Polyb. xi. 2. 10; 1Ma 11:66; 1Ma 12:7); but συν corresponds to the idea of complete custody, so that the enclosed are entirely and absolutely held in by the barriers in question. Comp. Herod, vii. 129: λίμνη συγκληϊσμένη πάντοθεν, Eur. Hec. 487; Polyb. i. 17. 8, i. 51. 10, iii. 117. 11; also Plat. Tim. p. 71 C, where it is used with ἐμφράττειν; 1Ma 4:31; 1Ma 5:5. Una includere would be συγκατακλείειν, Herod. i. 182; Lucian, Vit. auct. 9, D. mort. xiv. 4.

τὰ πάντα] the collective whole, not: all which man ought to do (Ewald), but like τοὺς πάντας, Romans 11:32. The neuter used of persons, who are thus brought under the point of view of the general category: the totality. See on 1 Corinthians 1:27; Arrian. v. 22. 1. According to Calvin, Beza, Wolf, Bengel, and others (comp. also Hofmann), τὰ πάντα is supposed to refer not merely to men, but also to everything which they are, have, or do. But the figurative συνέκλεισεν, and also the context by τοῖς πιστεύουσι and the personal indications contained in Galatians 3:23 ff., give the preference to our interpretation. Besides, τὰ πάντα, taken of things, would mean all things (Xen. Mem. i. 11; Romans 11:36, et al.), which is here unsuitable. Comp. on the matter itself, Romans 3:9; Romans 3:19ἵνα ἡ ἐπαγγελία κ.τ.λ.] the purpose of God, because that which was previously represented as the action of Scripture was in reality the action of God. Therefore we must not (with Semler, Koppe, Rosenmüller, Flatt, Winer, Matthias, and others) explain logice: quo appareat dari, etc.

ἡ ἐπαγγελία] that which was promised, a sense which the abstract receives through δοθῇ. Comp. Galatians 3:14. That which is meant is the promised gift, already well known from the context, namely, the κληρονομία, Galatians 3:16; Galatians 3:18.

ἐκ πίστεως] not from obedience to the law, which with that subjection under the control of sin was impossible, but so that the divine bestowal proceeds, as regards its subjective cause, from faith in Jesus Christ; comp. Galatians 3:8. The emphasis is on this ἐκ πίστ. . Χ., and not on ἐπαγγελία (Hofmann); see Galatians 3:23 ff.

τοῖς πιστεύουσι] is explained by Winer and others as an apparent tautology arising from the importance of this proposition (and therefore emphatic); but without adequate ground (and passages such as Galatians 3:9, Romans 1:17, Php 3:9, are not relevant here); the expression, on the contrary, is quite in keeping with the circumstances of the Galatians. That salvation was intended for believers, was not denied; but they held to the opinion that obedience to the law must necessarily be the procuring cause of this salvation. Paul therefore says: in order that, in virtue of faith in Jesus Christ, not in virtue of obedience to the law, salvation should be given to the believers—so that thus the believers have no need of anything further than faith. Comp. Galatians 5:4 f.

Galatians 3:22. The real function of the Law was not to justify but to convict of sin, that men might the more readily turn in humble faith to Christ for relief from the burden of an accusing conscience.—ἡ γραφὴ. The Old Testament was always designated by the plural γραφαί in apostolic times, for the several books were preserved in separate rolls and did not form a single whole. Here, therefore, ἡ γραφή points to some particular passage of the Law to which the author has already drawn attention as embodying its spirit. The passage of Deuteronomy 27:26 quoted in Galatians 3:10 answers this description, for it imprecates a curse on all who fell short of perfect obedience.—συνέκλεισεντὰ πάντα. The figure here presented of prisoners under sentence, condemned to pay the penalty of sin, makes it clear that the object of συνέκλεισεν is persons, not things: and accordingly these prisoners are described in Galatians 3:23 as συγκλειόμενοι (masc.). A neuter plural substantive must therefore be understood with τὰ πάντα which is applicable to persons. Hence I infer that by τὰ πάντα is meant τὰ πάντα σπέρματα, i.e., all the families of Abraham after the flesh, in other words the whole Jewish nation.—ἵνα … The design of the Law was to pave the way for the eventual fulfilment of the promise to all that believe by faith in Christ.

22. But the Scripture, &c.] The impossibility (Theod. Mops.) of obtaining righteousness by legal obedience is proved by the plain testimony of Scripture. It is noteworthy that in this momentous argument St Paul appeals not to conscience or experience, but to God’s Word written.

the Scripture hath concluded] Not the O. T. generally, but the particular passage referred to in ch. Galatians 2:16, viz. Psalm 143:2. This view is confirmed by the tense employed ‘concluded’, rather than the perfect ‘hath concluded’. This personification of Scripture is remarkable, investing it with the dignity and authority of a Divine utterance.

concluded] i.e. ‘shut up’, leaving no means of escape. The same word occurs Romans 11:32, ‘God shut up all men into disobedience, that He might have mercy upon all’.

all] Lit. ‘all things’, neuter. In the passage just quoted from Romans we have ‘all men’. This is more comprehensive, not because ‘no exception is made, not even in favour of the Virgin Mary, as the Vatican decree would require’ (Dr Schaff)—though this is true,—but because men’s purest aims, and noblest efforts, and holiest achievements are tainted with sin.

that the promise … believe] The promise is here put for the thing promised, justification, life. Bp. Lightfoot observes that the words, ‘by faith in Jesus Christ’ are not redundant. St Paul’s opponents did not deny that only believers could obtain the promise. They held that it was obtained by works, and not by faith.

This verse reveals the end for which the law was given—not to condemn, but to shew that by it was no escape, from it no escape, except by faith in the promise—in the Person promising and the Person promised. How beautifully Bunyan illustrates this great truth when he makes the Pilgrims who were shut up in the Doubting Castle of Giant Despair effect their escape by the Key of Promise, which Christian found in his bosom!

Galatians 3:22. Ἀλλὰ, but) So far is righteousness from being of the law, that the acknowledgment of sin is rather what comes of the law.—συνέκλεισεν, hath concluded) It has comprehended sinners, that were formerly unconcerned [free from all alarm], and has concluded them all together; comp. inclosed [συνέκλεισεν, of the multitude of fishes in the net], Luke 5:6.—ἡ γραφὴ, the Scripture) The Scripture, not God, is said to have concluded all under sin; although a ‘concluding’ of that sort is elsewhere ascribed to God, Romans 11:32. Moreover, it is worthy of notice, that he says, the Scripture, not the law. Scripture began to be written, not at the time when the promise was made, but at the time when the law was given; for God stands to His promises even without writing: but it was necessary, that the perfidy [faithlessness to God’s commands] of the sinner should be rebuked by the written letter. Furthermore, in the subsequent clause also, that, etc., Paul touches upon something, which goes beyond the sphere of the law, not beyond that of Scripture.[31]—τὰ τάντα, all) Not only all men, but also all the things, which they are and have in their possession.

[31] And for this reason also, ἡ γραφὴ is here said, not ὁ νόμος.—ED.

Verse 22. - But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin (ἀλλὰ συνέκλεισεν ἡ γραφὴ τὰ πάντα ὑπὸ ἁμαρτίαν); on the contrary, the Scripture hath shut it all up under sin. On the sense which the phrase, "the Scripture," sometimes bears, denoting the sacred writings collectively and not one particular passage, see note on ver. 8. Here, as in ver. 8, we feel ourselves at liberty not to limit the apostle's reference to one passage, as that cited in Galatians 2:16 or ver. 23 of this chapter, but to understand him as including in his scope the teaching of Holy Scripture in both these and other places; having probably in view some such general summary of the contents of God's Word as bearing upon the subject, as he has alleged in Romans 3. It is highly probable that some such summary, very possibly this identical one with variations, he was wont frequently to employ, as he certainly had constant occasion to do, in reasoning with his fellow-Jews and others, in synagogues and elsewhere. As in ver. 8, so here, the term "Scripture" is so applied as to invest Scripture with a sort of personal agency, which in stricter propriety would be predicated of its Divine Author. We have, in fact, presented to us the action of God himself in his ordering of that older economy, and not merely the statement of Scripture describing the condition of things under it. "Shut it all up under sin;" leaving no loop-hole of escape. The sense of the verb is illustrated by its use in the Septuagint (Joshua 6:1), "Jericho was (συγκεκλεισμένη) straitly shut up." God, in the appointments and revelations of the Law, found and pointedly left his people, so to speak, under the operation and overmastering of sin, providing for them therein, and as yet, no such outlet from either its condemnation or its power ("the law of sin," Romans) as he purposed in after times to open for them. The description stands in marked contrast with the blessed liberty predicated in the next chapter of the children of "Jerusalem which is above." This condition of things under the old economy is represented as being only a provisional ordering of the Divine Disposer, made with a view to a perfect manifestation of delivering goodness to come by-and-by. "Shut up... that," etc. We have a remarkable parallel to this twofold significance of "shut up," both as present and as prospective, in Romans 11:32," God hath shut up all men unto disobedience (συνέκλεισεν ὁ Θεὸς τοὺς πάντας εἰς ἀπείθειαν), that he might have mercy upon all;" where likewise the providential ordering of God is spoken of, and not the description of Scripture only. There we read τοὺς πάντας, here τὰ πάντα, with an evident propriety in the choice of gender; for there St. Paul is thinking of Jews and of Gentiles as severally coming under the operation of the Divine "shutting up;" here he is not thinking of varied personalities, but rather of the entire circumstances of men under the legal economy. That the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe (ἵνα ἡ ἐπαγγελία ἐκ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Ξριστοῦ δοθῇ τοῖς πιστεύουσι). The term "promise," as connected with the verb "might be given," denotes beyond doubt the thing promised, as in ver. 14, "the promise of the Spirit:" this is "the promise" meant here. Now, if we were to join the words, "by faith of Jesus Christ," with the noun "promise," we should have to understand the two together as meaning," the promise which was made to Abraham because of his faith in Jesus Christ;" and this would be attended with a twofold inconvenience:

(1) the term would have to be taken in two senses in the same sentence; it would first mean here, "the word of promise spoken to Abraham," and then, when immediately after taken with the verb "might be given," it would change its sense into that of "the thing promised;"

(2) this method of construing the sentence would import a new thought, one which did not, so far as we know - it may have done so, perhaps, but there is no proof of it - belong to St. Paul's views of the subject; namely, that "Jesus Christ" - not merely "Christ," but "Jesus Christ" the historical Son of David - was believed in by Abraham. It appears safer, therefore, to connect the words, "by faith of Jesus Christ," with the verb; thus: "that the promise might by faith, as a consequence of faith, of Jesus Christ be given to them that believe." The apostle redoubles the mention of "faith" as the qualification for receiving the gift. "Faith! Faith! with none of your wretched works of ceremonialism! Compare for this iteration of faith, vers. 2-7. He adds, "of Jesus Christ," to "by faith," to mark that the bestowment of the blessing was delayed till Christ should have actually come, to whose line amongst Abraham's posterity the promise had been made. The apostle intimates that the ulterior purpose which God had in view in then "shutting it all up under sin," the purpose which is described in this last sentence, was likewise signified by "Scripture," as well as the condition of comparative helplessness and condemnation, under which those subject to the Law were detained. The participle τοῖς πιστευουσι is either a class substantive (as Acts 2:44; 1 Corinthians 14:22), "to believers," or the present tense of the participle points to action contemporaneous with that expressed by the verb, "to them that should believe." Galatians 3:22But it is not true that the law gives life, for the law, according to scripture, condemned all alike.

The scripture (ἡ γραφὴ)

Scripture is personified. See on Galatians 3:8.

Hath concluded (συνέκλεισεν)

Better, hath shut up, as a jailer. Only in Paul, with the exception of Luke 5:6. Frequent in lxx. Not included with others, but confined as within an enclosure, as Luke 5:6, of the net enclosing the fish. Comp. Exodus 14:3; Joshua 6:1; 1 Macc. 4:31. Scripture, in its divine utterances on the universality and guilt of sin, is conceived as a jailer who shuts all up in sin as in a prison. Comp. Romans 3:10-19; Romans 11:32.

All (τὰ πάντα)

Neuter, all things collectively: equals all men. For the neuter in a similar comprehensive sense, see 1 Corinthians 1:27; Colossians 1:20; Ephesians 1:10.

That (ἵνα)

In order that. That which is represented through a personification as the act of Scripture, is the act of God, according to a definite purpose that the promise should be inherited by believers only, through faith in Jesus Christ.

The promise (ἡ ἐπαγγελία)

That is, the thing promised; the inheritance, Galatians 3:18.

By faith (ἐκ πίστεως)

Const. with the promise, not with might be given. The promised gift which is the result of faith. The false teachers claimed that it was the result of works.

To them that believe (τοῖς πιστεύουσιν)


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