O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?
"God," says the text, "preached the Gospel to Abraham." The very oath sworn to him by his Maker was, according to the Epistle to the Hebrews, designed to show to the heirs of promise, down the whole stream of time, the immutability of God's counsels. God forbid, cries St. Paul, that any one should think that the law—the schoolmaster who was to bring us to Christ—was against the promises of God! Though the sanctions of the two covenants might be different—a circumstance which does not in the least affect the moral obligation—the terms on which they dealt with man were the same. This development may be more complete, more uniform, more equable, more progressive, under the Gospel than under the law; but the direction of that development was ever, if not consciously towards Christ, at least towards Christianity. The life story of Abraham must have something in it that it concerns Christians of every age to know. It illustrates—
I. What faith is. Abraham to the age of St. Paul, before and above any saint in the annals of his race, was the representative of the nature of faith and its power; faith, not as opposed to reason, but as opposed to sight. It was not perfect, but it was real; it rested on the simplest virtues.
II. What it is to walk by faith. A consistent endeavour to frame the life so as to be in accordance with our convictions, so that what we are should be an expression to others of what we believe—this is what the Apostle means by walking by faith, and not by sight.
III. What it is, to the eye of such faith, to see Christ's day. What is Christ's day but the measure of knowledge of the will of God which it is our privilege to enjoy, and those opportunities of access to Him which all have, though all may not use? Even to us who live in the middle of that day, the light can be called neither clear nor dark. The knowledge is partial and fragmentary; the hopes, but not the eye, enter into that which is within the veil. What does Christ do for those who consciously live in the light of this day? He lifts them up from earth to heaven; sets their affections on things above; helps them to understand what that means, "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."
Bishop Fraser, University Sermons, p. 1.
References: Galatians 3:10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv., No. 174. Galatians 3:10-13.—S. Pearson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 72. Galatians 3:11.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv., No. 814; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 567. Galatians 3:11, Galatians 3:12.—Homilist, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 237.
Galatians 3:13(with Romans 5:21; 1 Corinthians 15:56; Galatians 4:1, Galatians 4:5; Romans 7:4)
The Saviour of Men.
Take the illustration of a drowning man, and compare it with the hapless condition of sinful men. In order to save the man there must be six conditions of success.
I. Some one from the shore must undertake to save him.
II. The helper must leave the shore and come to him, so that he can grasp him.
III. In order to come to him his deliverer must come within the sweep of the law. There is no other way of reaching him than through the current. Christ comes down close to where we are, so that men can not only see Him, but touch Him, grasp Him, take Him by the hand.
IV. The rescuer must bear the drowning man's share of the curse of the law if he would save him. The same strain comes as before, but the man's friend bears the strain for him. It is only on this condition that he can possibly be saved. The strength of the law which was against us had to exert its force on Christ.
V. Not only must the deliverer bear the sufferer's share of the force of the law which sweeps him down, but he must have strength enough to stand it all and get safe back again. Christ was not submerged under the waves for long. He regains the shore. He has come through it all. He has borne the whole curse. It is all finished. And yet He lives, omnipotent to save.
VI. The saviour and the saved must be firmly bound together. The drowning man cannot be saved unless he be attached to his deliverer, and in the same way the sinner cannot be saved unless he be attached to Jesus Christ.
J. Monro Gibson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 56.
References: Galatians 3:13.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv., No. 873. Galatians 3:16-18.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vii., p. 89. Galatians 3:19.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii., No. 123. Galatians 3:19, Galatians 3:20.—Church of England Pulpit, vol ii., p. 409. Galatians 3:21.—E. White, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 312. Galatians 3:22.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix., No. 1145; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. v., p. 31; J. Edmunds, Sixty Sermons, p. 351.
Galatians 3:23The Reasonableness of the Gospel.
I. There is something of a military allusion in this passage which it may be well to point out. The expression "kept under the law" denotes in the original being kept as in a citadel or garrison. It is this expression, "shut up unto the faith," which gives our text much of its power and singularity. The Law surrounded the Jews, as it were, with a rampart, effectually preventing their uniting with the rest of mankind, until their object of faith, which is Christ, or the dispensation of faith, which is the Gospel, should come in the fulness of time. But while we admit that the passage before us has a reference to the Jew, derived altogether from local and temporary circumstances, we cannot doubt that the expression "shut up unto the faith" applies to men of other lands and other generations. We regard this expression as making out to us what may be called the reasonableness of the Gospel.
II. The Gospel is a reasonable scheme—reasonable on the principle that, whatever other way is devised and tried, it is invariably found deficient, so that man remains shut up to the Gospel as his only resource. (1) The law leaves no place for repentance. (2) The law emphatically exhibits the necessity for a mediator. It will meet man like an ever-watchful adversary in his successive endeavours to appease conscience and propitiate God, driving him back and producing at least the confession that there is no alternative but eternal death or the suretyship 01 a mediator. It shuts us up to the faith and Christ crucified; it keeps us in a garrison, that we may be willing to receive and accept of salvation. We make a wrong use of the law, if it does not lead us to Christ.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1834.
Galatians 3:24Love in the Schooling of the Law.
Over all righteousness before men the will has power, because it is a righteousness of outward acts; but the will has not power over the desires and affections, in other words over the superior faculties of which it is a servant. It can produce good deeds to a certain extent, but it cannot produce good tendencies. Our actions are in our own hand, but our hearts are not. And God's law, which is summed up in one command, "Thou shalt love," regards not outward actions, but the direction of the heart. Therefore the will, which is powerful over so many things that lie in its department and beneath it, is utterly powerless in this, which lies out of its department and above it. It cannot fulfil the law of God. Consider how the law prepared men for the redemption of Christ.
I. Take, first, the case of the heathen, who live without a written law. In them the Fall reached its utmost depth. Conscience, bewildered and degraded, almost ceased to testify to the law of love. These were alive without the law; they knew no spiritual want, sighed for no deliverance; their being had sunk so low that the higher place from which they had fallen was hidden from them. But now comes in the written law, with its requirements, which the will of man cannot fulfil, its revelations of the higher place of love and freedom, its burdens of guilt on the awakened conscience. The sinner is by the law of God awakened and enlightened. He sees God as his object. But out of all the workings of the law in the sinner springs up not one plant of righteousness, nothing but a widening and deepening conviction of guilt, and incapacity, and danger, and death.
II. But now let us mark the effect on this man as a being of the future. To sit down in despair and die is a rare exception to his general constitution; place him in misery, and he sighs for deliverance. And the sinner, convicted under God's law, proved incapable of fulfilling it, is thereby made to cry out for deliverance. The awakening of the desire for good proves that sin was not his natural state, but a corruption of his nature. This sorrow points to joy, this hunger to satisfaction, this thirst to refreshment. For we cannot for a moment suppose that the good and loving God should awaken by His law this sense of misery and this desire for deliverance in His creatures merely to torment them and to drive them to despair. Therefore the law of God, by its very office of convicting of sin and bringing about a longing for deliverance, does, in fact, contain, wrapped in its depths, a promise of pardon and a prospect of deliverance.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. iv., p. 100.
References: Galatians 3:24.—H. P. Liddon, Church of England Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 70; Ibid., Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 385; Ibid., Penny Pulpit, No. 1130; T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. ii., p. 78. Galatians 3:24, Galatians 3:25.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx., No. 1196. Galatians 3:25, Galatians 3:26.—Homilist, vol. vii., p. 26. Galatians 3:25-29.—W. Spensley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiii., p. 61. Galatians 3:26.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 78. Galatians 3:26, Galatians 3:27.—S. Pearson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 357. Galatians 3:26-28.—Bishop Westcott, Ibid., vol. xxvi., p. 113; Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., p. 273. Galatians 3:26-29.—Bishop Westcott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 222.
Galatians 3:28Unity in Diversity.
St. Paul makes a threefold separation of the human race into two dissimilar classes. This classification is governed by (1) the great intellectual differences and antagonisms among men, (2) the chief emotional and constitutional differences of character, and (3) the prodigious distinctions effected by external circumstances.
I. The first of these divisions was based on the great antagonism which was so admirably expressed in the Apostle's day by the intellectual differences obtaining between the Jew and the Greek. The Jew was the type of all who in every age of the Church are by their education, mental habits, or dispositions, disposed to lay violent stress on the external sign, on the tangible symbol, on the sacramental test, on the old tradition. The Greek was the type of the class of Christian men at the present time whose mental constitution, habits, and education almost lead them, in their hatred of superstition, to discourage faith and to denounce the letter and the body and the form of truth so harshly as to shatter the costly vase which contains its fragrant essence. If these two tendencies are left to themselves unchecked and unchastised, very distant will be the day when Jew and Greek shall be one.
II. The second of the classifications is the great constitutional and emotional difference of character expressed by the antitheses of male and female.
III. The third is that great division due to differences arising out of external circumstances: the bond and the free. These three great divisions find in Christ their true counteraction. (1) There is now neither Jew nor Greek; they are both one in Christ Jesus. In like manner, if the Jew and Greek of these days will look on and up to the great uniting principle of holy life and truth in the person and sacrifice of Christ, they will clasp inseparable hands and antedate the harmonies of heaven. (2) Christ is the mediating power between the masculine and feminine mind. Christ is the wellspring of the strong motives to right action and of the deepest passions of holy love. (3) The bond and free are one in Christ. The slave lifts up his fetters, and feels that he is the Lord's free man; the free man is bold to acknowledge himself the Lord's slave.
H. R. Reynolds, Notes on the Christian Life, p. 44.
Galatians 3:28I. When we look at the history of the world, we learn something, even from ordinary history, of the oneness of the human race. We are one with those who are very distant from us in time. When we read the history of the men of old, we see how like they were to ourselves in their passions, in their sufferings, in their desires, and in their rejoicing. The old fathers looked not for transitory promises. If their family life was blessed, it was from looking forward in the same spirit of faith which unites us with our Saviour to the fulfilment of promises given from the very first and to the blessedness of union as children of one Father.
II. There are those who are separated from us in time and in place, and there are other separations more unchristian far and much more difficult to overcome than are even these physical separations. Old distinctions may have gone down amongst us which separated bond and free, but the gulf between the rich and poor remains. How important that we should all impress upon our minds that we are one in Christ Jesus, and that this oneness can only be practically maintained by some vigorous efforts on our part to overcome the physical difficulties which are separating us from one another. We are one in our sinfulness, one in our need of a Saviour to rescue us from our sin, one in the hopes which that Saviour gives, and, as one event is waiting for all, there is one hope in one Lord, for whom we are looking forward in the steadfastness of our one faith as redeemed by our one Lord.
A. C. Tait, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 65.
I. We are all one in Christ Jesus. In Him the dispensation is regathered. All things, St. Paul says, in heaven and in earth, are gathered together in Him. It seems as though angels who never fell are in some manner interested and concerned in that regathering. Certainly the dead, equally with the living, are so. Each separately must put on, must invest himself with, Jesus Christ. Cast your burden, and sin, and sorrow, and conscious weakness upon Christ as your Friend. Then are you inside Him. He includes, He contains, you, and in the dread day of days, when the avenger of blood looks for you, he shall find only Christ—only Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, Him risen.
II. In the exercise of that incorporation, or that union, and that oneness, will our true fellowship henceforth be found. All minor differences of place and intercourse sink at once into nothing. Place and sight may make the difference of pleasure, of comfort, of expressed communion, of conscious unity; but they make no difference whatever as to the reality, as to the essence, of union. We are all one person in Christ.
III. In the face of such union, let us learn—it is a hard lesson—let us learn to despise and trample under foot all other. What is neighbourhood? What is co-existence? Men live next door to each other, and never meet; meet, and never commune; commune, and are never one. At last a call comes. One goes forth at the summons of business, of necessity, of the Gospel, to a distant shore: seas roll between, they never see, they never hear of each other more; yet for the first time they may be one—one person—in Christ. The communion of saints is between them, and therefore the life of life, the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting.
C. J. Vaughan, Last Words at Doncaster, p. 311.
References: Galatians 3:28.—Bishop Westcott, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 185; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 128; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 271; A. B. Evans, Church of England Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 253; A. C. Tait, Ibid., vol. viii., p. 65; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvi., p. 405. Galatians 4:1-7.—Church of England Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 289.
This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.
He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.
So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.
For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.
Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.
But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.