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 3:7-14

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 7-14. 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 3:7 Know ye, therefore, that they who are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.

You must know, therefore, that the believers are alone the true children of Abraham, who are to inherit his promises.

“The children of Abraham,” i.e., the sons, who like Isaac, were to inherit his glorious promises.

Gal 3:8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God justifieth the Gentiles by faith, told unto Abraham before: In thee shall all nations be blessed.
Hence it was, that the Holy Ghost, who speaks through the Scripture, foreseeing the mode in which God would be pleased to justify the nations, viz., by faith, made the announcement of this joyous message long beforehand to Abraham, saying: All the nations of the earth shall receive the rich spiritual blessing of eternal life through thy seed, Christ, and this of course, through faith, the means of justification marked out by him.
Gal 3:9 Therefore, they that are of faith shall be blessed with faithful Abraham.
Therefore, it is the followers of Abraham’s faith that shall inherit the blessings promised to this father and model of all true believers.

In verse 8 the Apostle points out to the Galatians, heretofore ignorant of religion, as being Gentile converts, the advantages of being sons of Abraham, of which the chief was, the receiving the benedictions promised to him. The Apostle also shows how the gracious designs of God in this respect, were long before manifested, and declared to Abraham. “The Scripture foreseeing,” &c., that is, the Holy Ghost, who spoke through the Scripture. “In thee,” which is commonly interpreted, as in Paraphrase; or, “in thee,” like thee, after the model set by thee. This interpretation admirably accords with the following verse, which, interpreted in this way, would be connected thus:—All the nations of the earth shall receive the benedictions of grace and salvation in the same way that Abraham received them, verse 8. Now, Abraham received them through faith. “Abraham believed God,” &c. (Gal 3:6), therefore (Gal 3:9), the believers with Abraham, shall also be blessed with him.

Gal 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse. For it is written: Cursed is every one that abideth, not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

But as for those who seek for justification from the works of the law, far from receiving a blessing, they are under a curse. For, the law itself pronounces a malediction on all who will not fully comply with every single precept written in the Book of the Law—a requisition with which no man can comply, by the sole aid furnished by the law itself, unless he be strengthened by the graces derived from faith.

It is to be borne in mind, that the Apostle supposes only two sources of justification viz., faith—the source proposed by himself,—and the works of the law proposed by the false teachers. Hence, we can see the force of the question proposed in a disjunctive form (verse 5). In the foregoing verses, he proves by positive argument, that faith is the source of justification. In this verse, he proves the same, negatively, by showing that the works of the law, far from being a source of a benediction, are the occasional cause of a malediction. Similar is the doctrine (Romans 4.) Lex iram operatur. The law prescribes, under pain of malediction, the observance of all its precepts. Now, by the sole aid of the law itself, no one can fulfil the law. (This second proposition is supposed here, as being known from experience, for it was “a yoke which neither the Jews nor their fathers could bear.”—Acts, 15:10). The conclusion, therefore, is, that the law, exclusive of faith, cannot be a source of justification.

Gal 3:11 But that in the law no man is justified with God, it is manifest: because the just man liveth by faith.

Another proof, that justification is from faith, and not from the works of the law, is derived from the difference of effects flowing from faith and the works of the law. For that no one is justified before God, by the law, is plain from the Prophet Habacuc, who ascribes real and internal justification to faith—“the just man liveth by faith.”

In this verse is contained a new proof.—(Vide Paraphrase). The text from Habacuc, “the just man liveth,” &c., is explained.—(Rom. 1:17). See here.

Gal 3:12 But the law is not of faith: but he that doth those things shall live in them.

But this spiritual life, of which the Prophet speaks, and which he ascribes to faith, as its foundation, is quite different from the effects of the law, which only promises those who comply with its precepts, that such compliance will insure them temporal life and abundance.

He that doth these things,” &c. The Apostle here refers to the observance of the law by natural means, and is to be understood only of the principal leading precepts, the violation of which was punishable with death; for, the full observance of the entire law shall justify; but, for this, grace and faith are necessary; because no man can observe the entire law by natural means.—(See Rom. 10:5, for further exposition of this verse).

Gal 3:13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us (for it is written: Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree).

Christ hath freed us from the malediction entailed on us by the law, owing to our inability, from our own natural strength, to fulfil all its precepts; he did so, by meriting for us the grace to fulfil them, on account of his taking upon himself the form and appearance of a malefactor and one cursed by God; for, such were they all termed in the law, who were subjected to the ignominious death inflicted on Christ: “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.”—(Deut. 21:13).

“Being made a curse for us.” Christ is said to be made “a curse” for us, in the same way as he was made for us, “sin,” viz., because he assumed its appearance. “He was,” according to the Prophet, “struck by God, who placed upon him the iniquity of us all.”—(Isaias, 53.) “For it is written,” &c. (Deut. 21:23). Those who were hung from a tree, as was our Redeemer, are pronounced accursed in the Law of Moses. The “hanging on a tree” refers not so much to crucifixion, as to the hanging of a body after death on stakes or crosses.—(Josue, 10:26). Oh! what an ineffable mystery of Divine love. The immaculate sanctity of God takes on himself the degraded form of a wretch accursed of Heaven, in order to repair our iniquities. And if God thus punished him who never sinned, for taking upon himself the mere imputability of sin, what shall be the rigours of his punishment on impenitent sinners. “If these things they do in the green wood, what shall be done in the dry?”

Gal 3:14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Christ Jesus: that we may receive the promise of the Spirit by faith.

Christ submitted to this ignominious treatment, and assumed the appearance of a wretch cursed by God, in order that, through him, the spiritual benediction promised Abraham might be imparted to the Gentiles: that by faith we might receive the spirit of sanctification promised to all his sons.

“The promise of the Spirit,” i.e., the promised Spirit, or, the promise that we should receive the Spirit.

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