Galatians 3


The apostle inquires how they could be so foolish as to

renounce the Gospel of Christ and turn back to the law, after

having heard, received, and suffered so much for the Gospel,


Asserts the doctrine of justification by faith, on the example

of Abraham, 6-9.

Shows that all who are under the law are under the curse, from

which Christ alone redeems us; and the promise made to Abraham

comes to the Gentiles who believe, 10-14.

For the covenant is not by the works of the law, but by promise,


The law was given to show the sinfulness of sin, and to act as a

schoolmaster till Christ should come, 19-25.

It is by faith only that any become children of God, 26.

And under the Gospel, all those distinctions which subsisted

under the law are done away; and genuine believers, whether

Jews or Gentiles, bond or free, are one in Christ Jesus, and

accounted the genuine children of Abraham, 27-29.


Verse 1. O foolish Galatians] O infatuated people; you make

as little use of reason as those who have none; you have acted in

this business as those do who are fascinated-they are led blindly

and unresistingly on to their own destruction.

That ye should not obey the truth] This clause is wanting in

ABD*FG, some others, the Syriac, Erpenian, Coptic, Sahidic, Itala,

Vulgate MS., and in the most important of the Greek and Latin

fathers. Of the clause Professor White says, Certissime delenda,

"It should certainly be expunged."

There are several various readings on this verse, from which it

appears that the verse in the best ancient MSS. and versions was

read thus: O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you? Before

whose eyes Jesus Christ crucified hath been plainly set forth.

Among you?] ενυμιν is wanting in ABC, several others, the

Syriac, Erpenian, Coptic, Sahidic, AEthiopic, Armenian, Vulgate

MS., one copy of the Itala, and in several of the fathers. The

words appear to disturb the sense, and have obliged commentators

to have recourse to a sort of technical meaning; viz. "The

doctrine of the Gospel had been so fully preached among these

people that it might be said Jesus Christ had been crucified among

them; so fully had his sufferings been detailed, and the design of

them pointed out."

Verse 2. Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law] This

may refer to the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, which were very

common in the apostolic Church. Did ye receive these

extraordinary gifts in consequence of your circumcision, and

observing the Mosaic precepts? or was it by the hearing of the

Gospel, prescribing faith in Christ crucified? It may also refer

to the spirit of adoption, and consequently to their sonship.

Verse 3. Having begun in the Spirit] Having received a

spiritual religion, which refined and purified your hearts; and

having received the Holy Spirit of God, by which ye were endued

with various miraculous influences; and the spirit of adoption, by

which he were assured of the remission of sins, and incorporation

with the family of God:

Are ye now made perfect by the flesh?] Are ye seeking to

complete that spiritual religion, and to perfect these spiritual

gifts, by the carnal rite of circumcision? It appears that by the

Spirit, here, not only the Holy Spirit, but his gifts, are to be

understood; and by the flesh, illud membrum in quo circumcisio

peragitur; and, by a metonymy, circumcision itself.

Verse 4. Have ye suffered so many things in vain?] Have ye

received and lost so much good? The verb πασχων, as compounded

with ευ, well, or κακως, ill, and often without either,

signifies to suffer pain or loss, or to possess and enjoy.

In such a case the man is considered as the patient, and the good

or ill acts upon him. Though it is possible that the Galatians

had suffered some persecution for the truth of Christ, yet it is

as likely that the apostle refers to the benefits which they had

received. Ye have received faith, the pardon of your sins, the

gift of the Holy Spirit, and with it many extraordinary gifts and

graces; and have ye suffered the loss of all these things? Have

ye received all these in vain? if yet in vain-if it be credible

that ye have sacrificed so many excellent benefits for an

imaginary good.

Verse 5. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit] The

apostle means himself: he had been the means of conveying the Holy

Spirit to them, and by that Spirit he wrought miracles among them;

and he did all this, not as a Jew, (for as such he had no power,)

but he did all as a believer in Christ. The word επιχορηγων,

which we translate ministereth, is very emphatic, and signifies

leading up the chorus, bringing up one after another, adding grace

to grace, benefit to benefit; so that it appears that they had not

only some, but many benefits; God, by means of his apostle, having

greatly enriched them with various spiritual blessings.

Verse 6. Abraham believed God] This is quoted from Ge 15:6,

where see the note; and St. Paul produces it, Ro 4:3-5, where

also see the notes. Abraham, while even uncircumcised, believed

in God, and his faith was reckoned to him for justification; and

Abraham is called the father of the faithful, or, of believers.

If, then, he was justified without the deeds of the law, he was

justified by faith; and if he was justified by faith, long before

the law was given then the law is not necessary to salvation.

It is remarkable that the Jews themselves maintained that

Abraham was saved by faith. Mehilta, in Yalcut Simeoni, page 1,

fol. 69, makes this assertion: "It is evident that Abraham could

not obtain an inheritance either in this world or in the world to

come, but by faith."

Verse 8. The Scripture, foreseeing] See the notes on

Ro 4:3-16. As God intended to justify the heathen through faith,

he preached the Gospel that contains the grand display of the

doctrine of salvation by faith, before, to Abraham, while he was

in his heathen state; and thus he is called the father of

believers: therefore it must refer to them who shall believe the

same Gospel among the Gentiles; and, as the door of faith was open

to all the Gentiles, consequently the promise was fulfilled: In

thee shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.

Verse 9. They which be of faith] All who believe, as Abraham

has believed, are made partakers of Abraham's blessings.

Verse 10. As many as are of the works of the law] All that

seek salvation by the performance of the works of the law are

under the curse, because it is impossible for them to come up to

the spiritual meaning and intent of the law; and the law

pronounces them cursed that continue not in all things which are

written in the book of the law to do them. Hence, every Jew is

necessarily under the curse of God's broken law; and every sinner

is under the same curse, though he be not a Jew, who does not take

refuge in the salvation provided for him by the Gospel. It is

worthy of remark that no printed copy of the Hebrew Bible

preserves the word col, ALL, in De 27:26, which answers to

the apostle's word πασι, all, here. St. Jerome says that the Jews

suppressed it, lest it should appear that they were bound to

perform all things that are written in the book of the law. Of

the genuineness of the reading there is no cause to doubt: it

exists in six MSS. of Kennicott and De Rossi, in the Samaritan

text, in several copies of the Targum, in the Septuagint, and in

the quotation made here by the apostle, in which there is no

variation either in the MSS. or in the versions.

Verse 11. But that no man is justified by the law] By the

observance of the law, suppose he had even continued in all things

that are written in it to do them, is evident; for the Prophet

Habakkuk, Hab 2:4, has declared, under the direct influence of

the Spirit of God, The just shall live by faith; or, he who is

just by faith shall live: therefore this justification comes not

by works, or the observance of the law, but by faith.

Verse 12. And the law is not of faith] It promises no

forgiveness to believing, but requires obedience. It is not,

What do you believe? but, What have you done? The man that doeth

them perfectly, at all times, and in all places, he shall live in

them; but if in any case he fails, he forfeits his life.

See Clarke on Ro 1:17, &c.

Verse 13. Christ hath redeemed us] εξηγορασεν. Hath bought us

with a price; viz. his blood, or life.

Being made a curse for us] Being made an atonement for our

sins; for whatever was offered as an atonement for sin was

considered as bearing the punishment due to sin, and the person

who suffered for transgression was considered as bearing the curse

in his body; therefore, in the same day in which a criminal was

executed it was ordered that his body should be buried, that the

land might not be polluted, because he that was hanged, which was

the case with every heinous culprit, was considered accursed of

God, De 21:22, 23;

hence the necessity of removing the accursed THING out of sight.

Verse 14. That the blessing of Abraham] That is, justification

or the pardon of sin, with all other blessings consequent on it,

such as peace with God, spiritual life, and eternal glory.

Might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ] So we find

that he was made a curse for us, that the blessings promised to

Abraham might be given to them who believe on him, as having been

made a curse; i.e. an expiatory victim for them.

The promise of the Spirit] The spirit of adoption, sonship with

God; and the Spirit of God to attest that sonship. And all this

was through faith. Hence, from the beginning God had purposed

that salvation should be through faith, and never expected that

any soul of man should be justified by the works of the law; and

only gave that law that the exceeding sinfulness of sin might

appear, and that man might be prepared to welcome the Gospel,

which proclaimed salvation to a lost world through the atoning

passion and death of Christ.

Verse 15. I speak after the manner of men] I am about to

produce an example taken from civil transactions. If it be

confirmed-If an agreement or bond be signed, sealed, and

witnessed, and, in this country, being first duly stamped;

No man disannulleth] It stands under the protection of the

civil law, and nothing can be legally erased or added.

Verse 16. Now to Abraham and his seed] The promise of

salvation by faith was made to Abraham and his posterity.

He saith not, And to seeds] It was one particular kind of

posterity which was intended: but as of one-which is Christ; i.e.

to the spiritual head, and all believers in him, who are children

of Abraham, because they are believers, Ga 3:7. But why does the

apostle say, not of seeds, as of many? To this it is answered,

that Abraham possessed in his family two seeds, one natural, viz.

the members of his own household; and the other spiritual, those

who were like himself because of their faith. The promises were

not of a temporal nature; had they been so, they would have

belonged to his natural seed; but they did not, therefore they

must have belonged to the spiritual posterity. And as we know

that promises of justification, &c., could not properly be made to

Christ in himself, hence we must conclude his members to be here

intended, and the word Christ is put here for Christians. It is

from Christ that the grace flows which constitutes Christians.

Christians are those who believe after the example of Abraham;

they therefore are the spiritual seed. Christ, working in and by

these, makes them the light and salt of the world; and through

them, under and by Christ, are all the nations of the earth

blessed. This appears to be the most consistent interpretation,

though every thing must be understood of Christ in the first

instance, and then of Christians only through him.

Verse 17. Confirmed before of God in Christ] i.e. The promise

of justification, &c., made to believers in Christ Jesus, who are

the spiritual seed of Christ, as they are children of Abraham,

from the similitude of their faith. Abraham believed in God, and

it was reckoned to him for justification; the Gentiles believed in

Christ, and received justification. Probably the word Christ is

to be taken, both here and in the preceding verse, for Christians,

as has already been hinted. However it be taken, the sense is

plainly the same; the promise of salvation must necessarily be to

them who believe in Christ, for he is the promised seed, Ge 3:15,

through whom every blessing is derived on mankind; and through his

spiritual seed-the true Christians, the conquests of the cross are

daily spreading over the face of the earth. The present

unparalleled dispersion of the sacred writings, in all the regular

languages of the universe, is a full proof that all the nations of

the earth are likely to be blessed through them; but they have

nothing but what they have received from and through Christ.

Four hundred and thirty years after] God made a covenant with

Abraham that the Messiah should spring from his posterity. This

covenant stated that justification should be obtained by faith in

the Messiah. The Messiah did not come till 1911 years after the

making of this covenant, and the law was given 430 years after the

covenant with Abraham, therefore the law, which was given 1481

years before the promise to Abram could be fulfilled, (for so much

time elapsed between the giving of the law and the advent of

Christ,) could not possibly annul the Abrahamic covenant. This

argument is absolute and conclusive. Let us review it. The

promise to Abraham respects the Messiah, and cannot be fulfilled

but in him. Christians say the Messiah is come, but the advent of

him whom they acknowledge as the Messiah did not take place till

1911 years after the covenant was made, therefore no intermediate

transaction can affect that covenant. But the law was an

intermediate transaction, taking place 430 years after the

covenant with Abraham, and could neither annul nor affect that

which was not to have its fulfilment till 1481 years after.

Justification by faith is promised in the Abrahamic covenant, and

attributed to that alone, therefore it is not to be expected from

the law, nor can its works justify any, for the law in this

respect cannot annul or affect the Abrahamic covenant. But

suppose ye say that the law, which was given 430 years after the

covenant with Abraham, has superseded this covenant, and limited

and confined its blessings to the Jews; I answer: This is

impossible, for the covenant most specifically refers to the

Messiah, and takes in, not the Jewish people only, but all

nations; for it is written, In thy seed-the Messiah and his

spiritual progeny, shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.

This universal blessedness can never be confined, by any figure of

speech, or by any legal act, to the Jewish people exclusively;

and, as the covenant was legally made and confirmed, it cannot be

annulled, it must therefore remain in reference to its object.

In opposition to us, the Jews assert that the Messiah is not yet

come; then we assert, on that ground, that the promise is not yet

fulfilled; for the giving of the law to one people cannot imply

the fulfilment of the Abrahamic covenant, because that extends to

all nations. However, therefore, the case be argued, the Jewish

cause derives no benefit from it; and the conclusion still recurs,

salvation cannot be attained by the works of the law, forasmuch as

the covenant is of faith; and he only, as your prophets declare,

who is justified by faith, shall live, or be saved. Therefore we

still conclude that those who are only under the law are under the

curse; and, as it says, he that doeth these things shall live in

them, and he that sinneth shall die, there is no hope of salvation

for any man from the law of Moses. And the Gospel of Jesus

Christ, proclaiming salvation by faith to a sinful and ruined

world, is absolutely necessary, nor can it be superseded by any

other institution, whether human or Divine.

How we arrive at the sum of 430 years may be seen in the note on

Ex 12:40. Dr. Whitby also gives a satisfactory view of the

matter. "The apostle refers to the promise made, Ge 12:3, since

from that only are the 430 years to be computed, for then Abraham

was 75 years old, Ge 12:4; from thence to the birth of Isaac,

which happened when Abraham was 100 years old, (Ge 21:5,) 25

years; from his birth to the birth of Jacob, 60 years, for Isaac

was 60 years old when Rebecca bare him, Ge 25:26. From Jacob's

birth to the descent into Egypt, 130 years, as he said to Pharaoh,

Ge 47:9. The abode of him and his posterity in Egypt was 215

years; so that, with their sojourning in Canaan, was 430 years;"

the sum given here, and in Ex 12:40, where see the notes.

Verse 18. For if the inheritance be of the law] See the

preceding arguments, in which this is proved.

Verse 19. Wherefore then serveth the law?] If the law does not

annul the Abrahamic covenant, and cannot confer salvation on its

votaries, why did God give it? This was a very natural objection,

and must arise in the mind of any Jew who had paid attention to

the apostle's reasoning.

It was added because of transgressions] It was given that we

might know our sinfulness, and the need we stood in of the mercy

of God. The law is the right line, the straight edge, that

determines the obliquity of our conduct.

See Clarke on Ro 4:15; and especially

See Clarke on Ro 5:20,

where this subject is largely discussed, and the figure explained.

Till the seed should come] The law was to be in force till the

advent of the Messiah. After that it was to cease.

It was ordained by angels] The ministry of angels was certainly

used in giving the law; see Ps 68:17; Ac 7:53; and Heb 2:2; but

they were only instruments for transmitting; Moses was the

mediator between God and the people, De 5:5.

Verse 20. A mediator is not a mediator of one] As a mediator,

μεσιτης, signifies a middle person, there must necessarily be

two parties, between whom he stands, and acts in reference to

both, as he is supposed to have the interests of both equally at


This verse is allowed to be both obscure and difficult; and it

is certain that there is little consent among learned men and

critics in their opinions concerning it. Rosenmuller thinks that

the opinion of Nosselt is to be preferred to all others.

He first translates the words οδεμεσιτηςενοςουκεστιν thus:

But he (viz. Moses) is not the mediator of that one race of

Abraham, viz. the Christians; for ενος relates to the σπερμαω

επηγγελται, the seed that should come, Ga 3:19, of which he

said, ωςεφενος, as of one, Ga 3:16. If Paul had written

οδεμεσιτηςτουενοςεκεινουουκεστι, he is not the mediator of

one, no person would have had any doubt that σπερματος, seed,

ought to be supplied after ενος, of one, Ga 3:19-20. The same

mode of speaking Paul uses, Ro 5:17; οδε,

but he, ο for αυτος, Mt 12:3, 11, 39, οδεειπεν,

but he said. Though Moses was the Mediator between God and the

Israelites, yet he was not the mediator between God and that one

seed which was to come; viz. the Gentiles who should believe in


But God is one.] He is the one God, who is the Father of the

spirits of all flesh; the God of the Gentiles as well as the God

of the Jews. That this is St. Paul's meaning is evident from his

use of the same words in other places, 1Ti 2:5: ειςγαρθεος,

&c., for there is one God, and one mediator between God and man,

that is, there is only one God and one mediator for the whole

human race; Eph 4:5, 6:

One Lord, one faith, one baptism, ειςθεοςκαιπατηρπαντων, ONE

GOD and Father of ALL. The sense of the whole is: Moses was the

mediator of one part of Abraham's seed, viz. the Israelites; but

of the other seed, the Gentiles, he was certainly not the

mediator; for the mediator of that seed, according to the promise

of God, and covenant made with Abraham, is Christ.

Though Nosselt has got great credit for this interpretation, it

was given in substance long before him by Dr. Whitby, as may be

seen in the following words: "But this mediator (Moses) was only

the mediator of the Jews, and so was only the mediator of one

party, to whom belonged the blessings of Abraham, Ga 3:8, 14.

But GOD, who made the promise that in one should all the families

of the earth be blessed, IS ONE; the God of the other party, the

Gentiles, as well as of the Jews, επειπερειςοθεος, seeing he

is ONE GOD, who will justify the circumcision by faith, and the

uncircumcision through faith, Ro 3:30." This exposition is so

plain, and so well supported by the different scriptures already

quoted, that there can be but small, if any, doubt of its

propriety. The clause has been translated thus: "Now a mediator

supposes two parties, of which God is but one."

Verse 21. Is the law then against the promises of God?] Is it

possible that the intervention of the law, in reference to one

part of the Abrahamic seed, should annul the promise made to the

other? It is impossible.

For if there had been a law, &c.] If any law or rule of life

could have been found out that would have given life-saved sinners

from death, and made them truly happy, then righteousness-

justification, should have been by that law.

Verse 22. But the scripture hath concluded] All the writings

of the prophets have uniformly declared that men are all sinners,

and the law declares the same by the continual sacrifices which it

prescribes. All, therefore have sinned, and come short of the

glory of God; and, being tried and found guilty, συνεκλεισενη

γραφη, the Scripture hath shut them up-put them in prison, and

locked them up, till the time should come in which the sentence of

the law should be executed upon them: (See Ro 3:9-20, and the

notes there; and particularly Ro 11:32, where the apostle uses

the same metaphor, and which in the note is particularly


That the promise of justification, by faith of Jesus Christ,

might be given to them that believe.

Verse 23. But before faith came] Before the Gospel was


We were kept under the law, shut up] εφρουρουμεθα. We were

kept as in a strong hold, συγκεκλεισμενοι, locked up, unto the

faith-the religion of the Lord Jesus, which should afterwards be

revealed. Here the same metaphor is used as above, and for its

explanation I must refer the reader to the same place, Ro 11:32.

Verse 24. The law was our schoolmaster] ονομοςπαιδαγωγος

ημωνγεγονενειςχριστον. The law was our pedagogue unto Christ.

The παιδαγωγος, pedagogue, is not the schoolmaster, but the

servant who had the care of the children to lead them to and

bring them back from school, and had the care of them out of

school hours. Thus the law did not teach us the living, saving

knowledge; but, by its rites and ceremonies, and especially by its

sacrifices, it directed us to Christ, that we might be justified

by faith. This is a beautiful metaphor, and highly illustrative

of the apostle's doctrine. See Clarke on Ro 10:4, where this

figure is farther explained.

Verse 25. But, after that faith is come] When Christ was

manifested in the flesh, and the Gospel was preached, we were no

longer under the pedagogue; we came to Christ, learned of him,

became wise unto salvation, had our fruit unto holiness, and the

end eternal life.

It is worthy of remark that, as ονομος, the LAW, is used by St.

Paul to signify, not only the law, properly so called, but the

whole of the Mosaic economy, so ηπιστις, the FAITH, is used by

him to express, not merely the act of believing in Christ, but the

whole of the Gospel.

Verse 26. For ye, who have believed the Gospel, are all the

children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.] But no man is a child

of God by circumcision, nor by any observance of the Mosaic law.

Verse 27. As many of you as have been baptized into Christ]

All of you who have believed in Christ as the promised Messiah,

and received baptism as a public proof that ye had received Christ

as your Lord and Saviour, have put on Christ-have received his

Spirit, and entered into his interests, and copied his manners.

To put on, or to be clothed with one, is to assume the person and

character of that one; and they who do so are bound to act his

part, and to sustain the character which they have assumed. The

profession of Christianity is an assumption of the character of

Christ; he has left us an example that we should follow his steps,

and we should, as Christians, have that mind in us which was in

him. See the notes on Ro 6:3, 4; and especially those on

"Ro 13:14", where this phrase is farther explained.

Verse 28. There is neither Jew nor Greek] ελλην, Greek, is

put here for εθνικος, heathen. Under the Gospel all distinctions

are done away, as either helping or hindering; all are equally

welcome to Christ, and all have an equal need of him; all persons

of all sects, and conditions, and sexes, who believe in him,

become one family through him; they are one body, of which he is

the head.

Neither male nor female] With great reason the apostle

introduces this. Between the privileges of men and women there

was a great disparity among the Jews. A man might shave his head,

and rend his clothes in the time of mourning; a woman was not

permitted to do so. A man might impose the vow of nasirate upon

his son; a woman could not do this on her daughter. A man might

be shorn on account of the nasirate of his father; a woman could

not. A man might betroth his daughter; a woman had no such power.

A man might sell his daughter; a woman could not. In many cases

they were treated more like children than adults; and to this day

are not permitted to assemble with the men in the synagogues, but

are put up in galleries, where they can scarcely see, nor can they

be seen. Under the blessed spirit of Christianity, they have

equal rights, equal privileges, and equal blessings; and, let me

add, they are equally useful.

Verse 29. And if ye be Christ's] Or, as several good MSS.

read, If ye be one in Christ. If ye have all received

justification through his blood, and the mind that was in him,

then are ye Abraham's seed; ye are that real, spiritual posterity

of Abraham, that other seed, to whom the promises were made; and

then heirs, according to that promise, being fitted for the rest

that remains for the people of God, that heavenly inheritance

which was typified by the earthly Canaan, even to the Jews.

1. THE Galatians, it appears, had begun well, and for a time run

well, but they permitted Satan to hinder, and they stopped short

of the prize. Let us beware of those teachers who would draw us

away from trusting in Christ crucified. By listening to such the

Galatians lost their religion.

2. The temptation that leads us astray may be as sudden as it is

successful. We may lose in one moment the fruit of a whole life!

How frequently is this the case, and how few lay it to heart! A

man may fall by the means of his understanding, as well as by

means of his passions.

3. How strange is it that there should be found any backslider!

that one who once felt the power of Christ should ever turn aside!

But it is still stranger that any one who has felt it, and given

in his life and conversation full proof that he has felt it,

should not only let it slip, but at last deny that he ever had it,

and even ridicule a work of grace in the heart! Such instances

have appeared among men.

4. The Jewish covenant, the sign of which was circumcision, is

annulled, though the people with whom it was made are still

preserved, and they preserve the rite or sign. Why then should

the covenant be annulled? This question admits a twofold answer.

1. This covenant was designed to last only for a time, and when

that time came, having waxed old, it vanished away. 2. It was

long before that void, through want of the performance of the

conditions. The covenant did not state merely, ye shall be

circumcised, and observe all the rites and ceremonies of the law;

but, ye shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul,

mind, and strength, and your neighbour as yourself. This

condition, which was the very soul of the covenant, was

universally broken by that people. Need they wonder, therefore,

that God has cast then off? Jesus alone can restore them, and him

they continue to reject. To us the new covenant says the same

things: Ye shall love the Lord, &c.; if we do not so, we also

shall be cut off. Take heed, lest he who did not spare the

natural branches, spare not thee; therefore, make a profitable use

of the goodness and severity of God.

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