O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth…
Paul, having stated his position as dead to the Law and inspired by Christ, goes on in the present paragraph to appeal to the Galatians to free themselves from the bewitching power of Law, and to yield themselves to the faith in a crucified and now risen Christ, which alone secures justification and its cognate blessings. And here we notice -
I. HOW LAW CAN COMPETE SUCCESSFULLY WITH A CRUCIFIED SAVIOUR FOR THE HOMAGE OF THOUGHTLESS HEARTS. (Ver. 1.) Paul here declares that two attractive powers had been presented to the Galatians - a crucified Christ in his own preaching, and the Law in the preaching of the Judaizers; and, to his amazement, the Law had so bewitched them as to lead them to look for salvation to Law-keeping instead of to the Saviour. And yet it only brings out the fact that there is in Law and self-righteousness a bewitchery which is continually leading souls back to bondage. It seems so natural to establish some claim by Law-keeping and ceremony that poor souls are from time to time falling into legal hope and its delusions. The superstition, which is abroad now, and leads so many to ceremonials for salvation, rests upon this foundation. It is the fascination of an evil eye which is upon the foolish votaries; they fancy they can save themselves by Law, and maintain their self-complacency and pride all the time. But it is delusion pure and simple.
II. ALL THAT LAW CAN REALLY DO FOR SINNERS IS TO CONDEMN THEM. (Vers. 10, 13.) The position taken up by Law is this - to condemn every one who falls short of perfect obedience. No partial obedience will be entertained for a moment. "Every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the Law to do them," is by the Law "cursed." This tremendous deliverance ought to be the death of all "legal hope." The soul who continues to hope in the Law, after such a definite utterance only proclaims his foolishness. One breach of Law is sufficient to secure the curse. The Law maintains its demand for perfect obedience, and, if this be not rendered, it can do nothing but condemn. It becomes the more amazing that any after this could be bewitched by Law. Surely if the Law can only curse sinners, the sooner we look for salvation in some other direction than Law, the better. And to go back to Law-keeping from grace, in hope of acceptance, is clear retrogression.
III. JUSTIFICATION AND ITS COGNATE BLESSINGS CAN ONLY COME BY FAITH, (Vers. 2-9, 12, 14.) The Law in the nature of things cannot justify sinners. It has no means of doing so. But God in his grace has provided a way of justification. It is through the merits of his Son. And here we must remember that imputation of merit is the commonest fact of experience. There is not one of us who does not get a start in life and a consideration extended to us which are due to the merits of others, a respected parent or some deeply interested friend. We are surrounded with a halo of glory by virtue of the character of others. Their character helps us to a position and opportunity we could not otherwise obtain. It may be called a mere association of ideas, but it is strictly the passing of merit over from man to man. In the same way Jesus Christ has come into our world, allied himself with our sinful race, merited consideration and acceptance by obedience to Law, even as far as death, and this merit of the Divine Man passes over to believers. In the Father's sight, therefore, we are regarded as just, notwithstanding all our sin. We have been justified through faith. But besides, the believers obtain the Spirit to dwell within them, so that a process of sanctification is set up within them as soon as justification takes place. And the indwelling Spirit may manifest his presence and power in wonderful works, as appears to have been the case with these Galatians (ver. 5). So that Divine grace not only secures the justification of all who trust in Jesus, but their sanctification and spiritual power as well. Wondrous blessings are thus the outcome of Divine grace, and the heritage of those who believe. What a change from having to endure the curse of Law!
IV. ABRAHAM ILLUSTRATES THE BENEFIT OF FAITH IN GOD AS CONTRASTED WITH RELIANCE ON LAW. (Vers. 6-9.) The legalists claimed Abraham as their father. One would have supposed that Abraham had been the greatest ceremonialist of the early dispensation. But the truth is that Abraham was justified and accepted by simply believing God when he promised a world-wide blessing through Abraham's seed. The blessing came to the patriarch through simple trust in God. Those who hoped in Law-keeping, therefore, were not the true followers of Abraham. It was only those who trusted God for salvation and blessing who walked in the patriarch's footsteps. Consequently, all the ceremonialism which tried to shelter itself under the wings of Abraham was a simple imposition ] The "merit-mongers," as Luther calls them in his ' Commentary,' have thus no pretence of countenance from the case of Abraham. It was to simple trust in God he owed his standing before him. How needful, then, it is for us to shake ourselves free from every remnant of self-righteousness, and to look simply and implicitly to Christ alone] It is by faith we stand and live. The Christ who became the curse for us by hanging on a tree, calls us to trust him for acceptance and inspiration; and in trusting him we find the promise amply redeemed. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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?