The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Galatians 3:22-29

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 13, 2016

This post opens with Fr. MacEvilly’s summary of all of chapter 3, followed by his notes on verses 22-29. Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the verse he is commenting on. Text in red, if any, are my additions.

A Summary of Galatians Chapter 3.

In this chapter, the Apostle, after having conveyed in feeling terms, a mild, paternal rebuke, to the Galatians (Gal 3:1), proceeds to prove by several arguments, that justification comes from faith and not from the works of the law. His first argument is derived from the experience of the Galatians themselves. The abundant gifts of the Holy Ghost were displayed amongst them, and he asks them, was it from faith these gifts were derived? and he, then, points out their utter folly in having recourse to carnal precepts for the consummation of that sanctification which commenced with faith (Gal 3:2–5). His next argument is derived from the example of Abraham, justified by faith before he received the law, and his justification is the model of ours (Gal 3:6–9). Another argument is derived from the evils entailed by the law, which, far from being the source of a blessing, is the occasion of a curse (Gal 3:10). A further proof, which may be rather termed a fuller development of the preceding, is derived from the difference of the effects flowing from faith and the works of the law (Gal 3:11-12).

He shows how we are freed from the malediction entailed by the law (Gal 3:13-14). His next argument is founded on the nature of the testament which God made with Abraham, and in a strain of reasoning which he elucidates by human examples, he shows this testament to be unchangeable, and not voidable, which would be the result, if justification were to come from the law (Gal 3:15-16). From these arguments he concludes that we are justified by Christ, or rather by faith in him, and not by the law (Gal 3:17-18). He then answers certain objections to which his doctrine and reasoning might give rise, and shows the points in which the Old Law, and the promise made regarding Christ, differed, and the excellency of the latter above the former (Gal 3:19-20). Reverting to the opposition apparently existing between the law and the promise, he shows that there was no opposition between them. They would be really opposed, if the law conferred justice, as the false teachers taught (Gal 3:21). He shows that the law served the promise, by causing men, oppressed with the yoke of sin, to look to the proper source, viz., faith in Christ, for the fruits of the promise (Gal 3:22), and also that it prepared us for the promise, by restraining us from manifest transgressions (Gal 3:23). The law held the same relation to the promise, that the pedagogue does to the preceptor (Gal 3:24). But now its office ceases; hence, abrogated, as being useless (Gal 3:25). The Galatians arrived at once at full grown spiritual existence; and, did not, therefore, require the magisterial discipline of the pedagogue (Gal 3:26). He points out the magnitude of the blessings conferred on them in justification. 

Gal 3:22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise, by the faith of Jesus Christ, might be given to them that believe.

But, on the contrary, the law has served the promise, since the written law has shut up all men, even the Jews, in the prison of sin, in order that, by manifesting their iniquity, by reproving their vices, or even by serving for the increase of sin, it would cause them from a consciousness of their misery, to look to quite a different source for the fruits of the promise, viz., to faith in Jesus Christ, the blessed seed to whom the promises were made.

“But the Scripture.” By “the Scripture,” is generally understood the written Law, and Scripture of the Old Testament. It is here personified as the representative of God, by whom it was inspired. “Hath concluded all” παντα (panta), omnia, all mankind The neuter is employed to denote the more general extension and comprehensiveness of the assertion.

Gal 3:23 But before the faith came, we were kept under the law shut up, unto that faith which was to be revealed.

But before the coming of Christ in whom we are bound to believe, and the full manifestation of his Gospel, we were kept in the service of God, and restrained from the commission of crime under the custody of the law, until the period when the faith in Christ was fully revealed in the promulgation of his Gospel, for which the law served to prepare us.

Another effect of the Law was, to prepare us for the full revelation of the Gospel, and by keeping us, through fear of punishment, from manifest transgressions, to make us aspire after the liberty promised in the Gospel, as one of the blessings of faith.

Gal 3:24 Wherefore the law was our pedagogue in Christ: that we might be justified by faith.

Wherefore, the law, after restraining our faults, and imbuing us with the knowledge of God, fulfilled, in our regard, the office of pedagogue, by conducting us to Christ, the teacher of true wisdom, and the source of justice, in order that by faith in him we might attain justice.

The Apostle points out the office of the law. Far from being opposed to the promise, it subserved to it, by fulfilling the office of pedagogue or conductor to the Gospel or faith. As it was the duty of the pedagogue or slave, charged with the care of children, to preserve them from vice, and teach them the elements of knowledge—by that means preparing them for more matured instructions under the preceptor—so, the law restrained the Jews from vice, by the fear of correction; it explained to them the elementary truths, regarding the knowledge and service of God; and by its types and ceremonies, it served to lead them gradually to the fulness of truth. The Apostle here speaks of the entire Mosaic law, without grace, to which he here opposes it.

“Our pedagogue in Christ.” In Greek, εἰς Χριστον (eis Christon), unto Christ. (For the meaning of “pedagogue,” see 1 Cor. 4:15).

Gal 3:25 But after the faith is come, we are no longer under a pedagogue.

But now after our introduction to Christ through faith, the services of the pedagogue, i.e., of the law, are to be dispensed with.

Whereas the law has fulfilled its duty, and is now become useless, it should, therefore, cease.

Gal 3:26 For you are all the children of God, by faith in Christ Jesus.

For you all, whether Jews or Gentiles, are, by faith in Jesus Christ, full grown sons of God, and therefore, no longer in need of a pedagogue.

Lest they might object to him and say, why should not we, too, submit, like the Jews, to be conducted to Christ, by the magisterial discipline of the pedagogue, viz., the law: the Apostle says, that faith and baptism conferred on them an adult, full grown spiritual existence; and hence, there was no need for them of a pedagogue.

Gal 3:27 For as many of you as have been baptized in Christ have put on Christ.

For all of you who have been baptized, and by baptism incorporated with the mystic body of Christ have been transformed into him, and thus become sons of God.

They all put on Christ in baptism, and were clothed with him as with a garment; hence, they should be assimilated to him in all things. His Spirit should appear in all they do. And as the external garments with which a man is clothed, alone appear; hence, Christ alone should appear in them. As Christ ever conformed to God’s holy and adorable will (“Meus cibus est, ut faciam voluntatem ejus qui misit me. Qiæ placita sunt ei, facio semper,” = My meat is to do the will of him who sent me. I always do what is pleasing to him~Jn 4:34, 8:29) so should all Christians, who in baptism have put him on and have been incorporated with him, do the same.

Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Without distinction whether of origin, or condition, or sex, you have all by baptism been ingrafted on Christ, and become one mystical body of which he is head.

“There, is neither Jew nor Greek,” &c. All these distinctions are merged in the common character of children of God.—(Kenrick). How calculated are not these words to inspire all Christians with sentiments of love and humility. They should all, in whatever rank or condition of life, regard each other as one, as equal, as co members of the mystical body of Christ; hence, they should love one another, and regard one another, in the light of perfect equality.

Gal 3:29 And if you be Christ’s, then are you the seed of Abraham, heirs according to the promise.

But if you are of Christ, and one with him; then, you are with him, the sons, the spiritual seed of Abraham; and, consequently, heirs of the benedictions promised to him.

Having become members of Christ, we are sharers in his inheritance and rights, and are blessed in him. What motives of eternal gratitude and love for God, who after our sins, has made us partakers of his blessings and co-heirs with his Son! Stipendium peccati mors.—(the wages of sin is death, Rom. 6:23). But it would appear from the incomprehensible goodness of God to us, that the reward of our grievous sins is not death, but life, the adoption of sons, and co-heirdom with Jesus Christ—“Tibi soli peccavi et malum coram te feci. Peccatum meum contra me est semper.” (Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in thy sight, Ps 51:4. 51:6 in some translations) .Therefore, we whom God has rescued from hell, should cry out with the same Royal Penitent: Misericordias Domini in eternum cantabo. Nisi quia Deus adjuvat me, paulo minus in inferno habitasset anima mea (The mercies of the Lord I will forever sing. If I had not God as my helper, my soul would have gone down to the grave. See Ps 89:2 (1) and 94:17). Should we not then manifest our gratitude by conforming in everything to Christ, whom we have put on? In every instance, we should ask ourselves this question: How would our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ have acted, in the like circumstances?

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