RECEIVING THE GOSPEL
Galatians 2:11-3:25 June 14 2009
The apostle in this chapter, I. Reproves the Galatians for their folly, in suffering themselves to be drawn away from the faith of the gospel, and endeavours, from several considerations, to impress them with a sense of it. He proves the doctrine which he had reproved them for departing from-that of justification by faith without the works of the law, From the example of Abraham’s justification. From the nature and tenour of the law. . From the express testimony of the Old Testament; and. from the stability of the covenant of God with Abraham. Lest any should hereupon say, "Wherefore then serveth the law?” he answers, It was added because of transgressions. It was given to convince the world of the necessity of a Saviour. It was designed as a schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ. And then he concludes the chapter by acquainting us with the privilege of Christians under the gospel state.
1. The doctrine of justification by in Christ , without the works of the Law : (Gal.2:15-19)
Gal. 2:15 “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ 2:16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. 2:17 “If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 2:18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. 2:19 For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
Paul, having thus shown he was not inferior to any apostle, not to Peter himself, speaks of the great foundation doctrine of the gospel. For what did we believe in Christ? Was it not that we might be justified by the faith of Christ? If so, is it not foolish to go back to the law, and to expect to be justified by the merit of moral works, or sacrifices, or ceremonies? The occasion of this declaration doubtless arose from the ceremonial law; but the argument is quite as strong against all dependence upon the works of the moral law, as respects justification. To give the greater weight to this, it is added, But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ the minister of sin? This would be very dishonourable to Christ, and also very hurtful to them. By considering the law itself, he saw that justification was not to be expected by the works of it, and that there was now no further need of the sacrifices and cleansings of it, since they were done away in Christ, by his offering up himself a sacrifice for us. He did not hope or fear any thing from it; any more than a dead man from enemies. But the effect was not a careless, lawless life. It was necessary, that he might live to God, and be devoted to him through the motives and grace of the gospel. It is no new prejudice, though a most unjust one, that the doctrine of justification by faith alone, tends to encourage people in sin. Not so, for to take occasion from free grace, or the doctrine of it, to live in sin, is to try to make Christ the minister of sin, at any thought of which all Christian hearts would shudder.
A key verse in Galatians (see Introduction: Theological Teaching). Three times it tells us that no one is justified by observing the law, and three times it underscores the indispensable requirement of placing one’s faith in Christ. By observing the Law . Paul is not depreciating the law itself, for he clearly maintained that God’s law is “holy, righteous and good” (Romans 7:12). He is arguing against an illegitimate use of the OT law that made the observance of that law the grounds of acceptance with God. justified by faith . The essence of the gospel message ( Romans 3:20,28; Php 3:9; Romans 3:24,28). Faith is the means by which justification is received, not its basis. I died to the law . (Gal.2:20; Romans 7:4).
2. The doctrine of justification by faith in Christ , without the works of the Law: (Gal.2:20,21)
Gal. 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 2:21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
Here, in his own person, the apostle describes the spiritual or hidden life of a believer. The old man is crucified, Rom 6:6, but the new man is living; sin is mortified, and grace is quickened. He has the comforts and the triumphs of grace; yet that grace is not from himself, but from another. Believers see themselves living in a state of dependence on Christ. Hence it is, that though he lives in the flesh, yet he does not live after the flesh. Those who have true faith, live by that faith; and faith fastens upon Christ’s giving himself for us. He loved me, and gave himself for me. As if the apostle said, The Lord saw me fleeing from him more and more. Such wickedness, error, and ignorance were in my will and understanding, that it was not possible for me to be ransomed by any other means than by such a price. Consider well this price. Here notice the false faith of many. And their profession is accordingly; they have the form of godliness without the power of it. They think they believe the articles of faith aright, but they are deceived. For to believe in Christ crucified, is not only to believe that he was crucified, but also to believe that I am crucified with him. And this is to know Christ crucified. Hence we learn what is the nature of grace. God’s grace cannot stand with man’s merit. Grace is no grace unless it is freely given every way. The more simply the believer relies on Christ for every thing, the more devotedly does he walk before Him in all his ordinances and commandments. Christ lives and reigns in him, and he lives here on earth by faith in the Son of God, which works by love, causes obedience, and changes into his holy image. Thus he neither abuses the grace of God, nor makes it in vain.
Crucified with Christ. (Gal.5:24; 6:14; Romans 6:8-10; 7:6; Romans 6:70). gave himself for me . (GAL.1:4; 1Ti 2:6; Tit 2:14). Christ died for nothing . To mingle legalism with grace distorts grace and makes a mockery of the cross.
3. The great doctrine of justification alone , through faith in Christ . (Gal.3:1-5)
Gal. 3:1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 3:2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3:3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 3:4 Have you suffered so much for nothing —if it really was for nothing? 3:5 Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
Several things made the folly of the Galatian Christians worse. They had the doctrine of the cross preached, and the Lord’s supper administered among them, in both which Christ crucified, and the nature of his sufferings, had been fully and clearly set forth. Had they been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, by the ministration of the law, or on account of any works done by them in obedience thereto? Was it not by their hearing and embracing the doctrine of faith in Christ alone for justification? Which of these had God owned with tokens of his favour and acceptance? It was not by the first, but the last. And those must be very unwise, who suffer themselves to be turned away from the ministry and doctrine which have been blessed to their spiritual advantage. Alas, that men should turn from the all-important doctrine of Christ crucified, to listen to useless distinctions, mere moral preaching, or wild fancies! The god of this world, by various men and means, has blinded men’s eyes, lest they should learn to trust in a crucified Saviour. We may boldly demand where the fruits of the Holy Spirit are most evidently brought forth? whether among those who preach justification by the works of the law, or those who preach the doctrine of faith? Assuredly among the latter.
Foolish . They were not mentally deficient but simply failed to use their powers of perception ( Luke 24:25; Romans 1:14; 1Ti 6:9; Tit 3:3). WHO. . . ? Obviously legalistic Judaizers. Portrayed as crucified . (1Con 1:23; 2:2). The verb means “to publicly portray or placard.” The bronze snake that Moses displayed on a pole (Num 21:9). The Spirit . From this point on in Galatians Paul refers to the Holy Spirit 16 times. Beginning with the Spirit . . . Attain your goal . Both salvation and sanctification are the work of the Holy Spirit. Human effort . Lit. “the flesh,” a reference to human nature in its unregenerate weakness. Trying to achieve righteousness by works, including circumcision, was a part of life in the “flesh.” Paul hopes that those who have been misled will return to the true gospel.
4. This doctrine established from the example of Abraham , (Gal.3:6-9)
Gal. 3:6 Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 3:7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 3:8 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 3:9 So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
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.
Children of Abraham . Abraham was the physical and spiritual father of the Jewish race (John 8:31,33,39,53; Acts 7:2; Romans 4:12). Here all believers (Jews and Gentiles) are called his spiritual children (see notes on Romans 4:11-12). They are also referred to as the “seed” or “descendants” of Abraham (Gal 3:16; Heb 2:16). Scripture foresaw. A personification of Scripture that calls attention to its divine origin (1Tim 5:18). Abraham , the man of Faith . Paul develops this theme at length in (Romans 4; Heb 11:8-19).
Paul having thus established his character and office, and sufficiently shown that he was not inferior to any of the apostles, no, not to Peter himself, from the account of the reproof he gave him he takes occasion to speak of that great fundamental doctrine of the gospel-That justification is only by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law (though some think that all he says to the end of the chapter is what he said to Peter at Antioch), which doctrine condemned Peter for his symbolizing with the Jews. For, if it was the principle of his religion that the gospel is the instrument of our justification and not the law, then he did very ill in countenancing those who kept up the law, and were for mixing it with faith in the business of our justification. This was the doctrine which Paul had preached among the Galatians, to which he still adhered, and which it is his great business in this epistle to mention and confirm. Now concerning this Paul acquaints us,