Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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GALATIANS - Chapter 3

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Galatians 3

Supplemental Commentary:

II.  DOCTRINAL  3, 1 -- 4, 31

1.  Justification From Faith Not From the Law  3, 1-29

St. Paul has just stated (2, 21) that to seek salvation through the Mosaic Law is to render null the death of Christ; and reflecting now on the situation in Galatia, he undertakes to prove the doctrine that justification is rather through faith in Christ.

3, 1-6:  Proved from the Galatians' Experience.    1.  Who has bewitched you: as if by an evil eye.  Through Paul's teaching Jesus Christ crucified was made to appear before their eyes as if actually existing in the flesh.  some Vulgate codices and the Clementine edition after bewitched you add "that you should not obey the truth."    2.  They had received the Holy Spirit with His sanctifying grace and His special gifts through Paul's preaching, and their believing in Christ crucified.    3.  Are you so foolish, that beginning your salvation by the reception of the Holy Spirit you seek the completion of it in the carnal ceremonies of the Mosaic Law (the flesh)?    4.  The Galatians suffered many persecutions for their faith.  These will not be in vain.    5.  By Spirit the Apostle is referring to internal gifts, such as knowledge and wisdom (1 Cor. 12, 4 ff); by miracles he means the outward manifestations of the Holy Spirit received after Baptism, e.g., the gift of tongues (Acts 10, 46), or that of prophecy (Acts 19, 6).  There could be no doubt that these gifts were not given because of the observance of the Mosaic Law, since the majority of the Galatians were converts from paganism, and had not been circumcised (4, 8).    6.  For this text (Gen. 15, 6) cf. the Commentary on Rom. 4, 3 ff.

3, 7-9:  The Example of Abraham.    7.  The men of faith: those who make faith, and not the ceremonial works of the Law, the principle of their religious life.    8.  The Scripture is here personified.  Paul refers to the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.  The meaning is that the Holy Spirit, the Author of Scripture, foresaw before the giving of the Law that God the Father had determined to justify the Gentiles by faith.  The citation is a fusion of two passages, Gen. 12, 3 and 18, 18.  All the nations: i.e., all those, whether Gentile or Hebrew, who shall imitate the faith of Abraham.

3, 10-14:  The Nature of the Law.    10.  Those who trust in an inherent sanctifying power in the works of the Law are under a curse.  The Law gave no help towards keeping its mandates; and thereby multiplied sins.    11.  No one is made just before God by virtue of the Law; true justice comes only through faith.    12.  The Law does not rest on faith, because faith is concerned primarily with internal dispositions, while the Law regards only external acts.  The citation is from Lev. 18, 5, meaning that he who keeps the Law shall live; but St. Paul points out that keeping the Law is impossible without some help, which the Law itself cannot give.    13.  Curse: i.e., an execration, an expression or sentence of reprobation.  The citation illustrates the way Christ redeemed us.  He took upon Himself all the maledictions of the Law in order to liberate those who were under the Law.  Crucifixion was not a Jewish method of execution, except under circumstances quite unusual, e.g., Num. 25, 4.    14.  This verse indicates the purpose for which Christ died on the cross.

3, 15-18:  The Promise of God.    15.  Brethren: the Apostle now speaks with the affection of a master for his disciples; he returns to his usual kindness.  I speak after the manner of men: I borrow an example from human life.  St. Paul refers to the alteration of a will after the death of the testator.    16.  The promises: the plural is used because the promise was several times repeated to Abraham, and renewed to Isaac and Jacob.  Offspring: i.e., the promise was made to Abraham and to his offspring, Christ, hence no one can have a part in this inheritance except in Christ, united to Christ by faith and love.    17.  St. Paul is either counting the time between the last renewal of the promise made to Jacob in the land of Canaan (Gen. 46, 3-4) and the giving of the Law, i.e., he is reckoning the period during which the Jews were in Egypt, which according to the Hebrew text of Ex. 12, 40 was 430 years; or he is following the Septuagint version of Ex. 12, 40, which gives 430 years as the length of the period from the entrance of Abraham into Canaan until the departure of the Hebrews from Egypt.    18.  The conclusion now arrived at is that the inheritance of Abraham, Canaan, was not of the nature of wages for the observance of the Mosaic Law.  God gave it to Abraham by promise, i.e., as a gratuitous gift.  We must note that Paul uses inheritance here in a spiritual sense, as embracing all the blessings of which Christ is the source.  Canaan was a type of these.

3, 19-29:  The Purpose of the Law.  St. Paul anticipates the objection that if the Law does not in any way affect the promise made to Abraham, why was it given?  It was a divine institution, in no way opposed to the promise, a protection to the Hebrews, a moral guide to lead them to Christ.

19.  The Law was a temporary measure.  It revealed to man his sins and infirmities, without giving him the grace to overcome them, and so indirectly it multiplied man's sins; but it made him long for the help of a redeemer.  That the angels had a part in the making of the Mosaic Law was a Jewish tradition, based on Deut. 33, 2.    20.  The employment of Moses as an intermediary showed that at the giving of the Law a contract was made, God binding Himself to bless the Hebrews as long as they observed His Law (Ex. 19, 5-8).  But in the giving of the promise there was but one, i.e., God; and so, no subsequent contract could in any way violate or impair this promise.    21.  This is another part of the objection.  Does it not follow that the Law was opposed to the promise?  No.  Such would have been the case if the Law was intended to accomplish what had been promised.  Then justice, or supernatural holiness would have been by the Law, not by faith, and then the Law would have been against the promise (Rom. 4, 13 f).    22.  Contrary to the supposition of the preceding verse, the entire Old Testament shows that all men were enslaved by sin, in order that the inheritance promised to Abraham might be given to all who believe, not for their observance of the Mosaic Law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1, 30).  Cf. Rom. 3, 9 ff.

23.  Faith: i.e., the object of our faith, Christ.  Shut up: as captives and prisoners under the bonds of the Law.  For the faith that was to be revealed: i.e., waiting for the coming of Christ.    24.  The tutor in Greek and Roman households was a faithful slave charged with the protection of the younger children.  He took the children to school, and guarded them from danger on the way.  In this sense the term is here applied to the Law, which led to the school of Christ, the acceptance of whose teaching is called faith.    26.  The emphasis is on the word all.    27.  Put on Christ: being clothed with Christ is another way of stating the incorporation in Christ which is the result of faith and Baptism.  Cf. Rom. 13, 14.    28.  It now follows that religiously no differences, national or social, exist because of the identity with and in Christ.    29.  This verse contains the conclusion that if all are united with Christ, then all are heirs to the inheritance promised to Abraham, and to his offspring, Christ.

Confraternity Bible:

Proved from the Galatians' Experience  1 O foolish Galatians! who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been depicted crucified?  2 This only I would learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit in virtue of the works of the Law, or in virtue of hearing and believing?  3 Are you so foolish that after beginning in the Spirit, you now make a finish in the flesh?  4 Have you suffered so much in vain?  if indeed it was in vain.  5 He therefore who gives the Spirit to you, and works miracles among you, does he do it by the works of the Law, or by the message of faith?  6 Even thus "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as justice."

The Example of Abraham  7 Know therefore that the men of faith are the real sons of Abraham.  8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, announced to Abraham beforehand, "In thee shall all the nations be blessed."  9 Therefore the men of faith shall be blessed with faithful Abraham.

The Nature of the Law  10* For those who rely on the works of the Law are under a curse.  For it is written,
"Cursed is everyone who does not hold to all  things that are written in the book of the Law, to perform them." 
11 But that by the Law no man is justified before God is evident, because "he who is just lives by faith."  12* But the Law does not rest on faith; but, "he who does these things, shall live by them."  13* Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, becoming a curse for us; for it is written,
"Cursed is everyone who hangs on a gibbet"; 
14 that the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, that through faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

The Promise of God  15 Brethren (I speak after the manner of men); yet even a man's will, once it has been ratified, no one annuls or alters.  16 The promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring.  He does not say, "And to his offsprings," as of many; but as of one, "And to thy offspring," who is Christ.  17* Now I mean this: The Law which was made four hundred and thirty years later does not annul the covenant which was ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.  18 For if the right to inherit be from the Law, it is no longer from a promise.  But God gave it to Abraham by promise.

The Purpose of the Law  19 What then was the Law?  It was enacted on account of transgressions, being delivered by angels through a mediator, until the offspring should come to whom the promise was made.  20* Now there is no intermediary where there is only one; but God is one.  21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God?  By no means.  For if a law had been given that could give life, justice would truly be from the Law.  22 But the Scripture shut up all things under sin, that by the faith of Jesus Christ the promise might be given to those who believe.

23 But before the faith came we were kept imprisoned under the Law, shut up for the faith that was to be revealed.  24 Therefore the Law has been our tutor unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.  26 For you are all the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  27 For all you who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.  28 There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor freeman; there is neither male nor female.  For you are all one in Christ Jesus.  29 And if you are Christ's, then you are the offspring of Abraham, heirs according to promise.


10: Deut. 27, 26.  Those who trust in an inherent sanctifying power in the works of the Law are under a curse.  The Law gave no help towards keeping its mandates; and thereby multiplied sins.

12: The citation from Lev. 18, 5 means that he who keeps the Law shall live; but St. Paul points out that keeping the Law is impossible without some help, which the Law itself cannot give.

13: Deut. 21, 23.  Becoming a curse: i.e., Christ took on Himself all the maledictions of the Law, in order to free those under the Law.  Curse: an execration, an expression or sentence of reprobation; it is used here by metonymy.  The citation from Deut. 21, 23, illustrates the way Christ redeemed us.

17: At this time the Law was given to Moses.

20: When there is a mediator, there are at least two parties.