|Justification by Faith.
A. D. 56.
...16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises
made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy
seed, which is Christ. 17 And this I say, that the covenant, that
was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and
thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none
effect. 18 For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no
more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
The apostle having reproved the Galatians for not obeying the
truth, and endeavoured to impress them with a sense of their folly herein,
in these verses he largely proves the doctrine which he had reproved them
for rejecting, namely, that of justification by faith without the works of
the law. This he does several ways....
...IV. To this purpose the apostle urges the stability of the covenant
which God made with Abraham, which was not vacated nor disannulled by the
giving of the law to Moses,
15, &c. Faith had the precedence of the law, for Abraham was justified
by faith. It was a promise that he built upon, and promises are the proper
objects of faith. God entered into covenant with Abraham (v.
8), and this covenant was firm and steady; even men's covenants are so,
and therefore much more his. When a deed is executed, or articles of
agreement are sealed, both parties are bound, and it is too late then to
settle things otherwise; and therefore it is not to be supposed that by the
subsequent law the covenant of God should be vacated. The original word
diatheke signifies both a covenant and a testament. Now the
promise made to Abraham was rather a testament than a covenant. When a
testament has become of force by the death of the testator, it is not
capable of being altered; and therefore, the promise that was given to
Abraham being of the nature of a testament, it remains firm and unalterable.
But, if it should be said that a grant or testament may be defeated for want
of persons to claim the benefit of it (v.
16), he shows that there is no danger of that in this case. Abraham is
dead, and the prophets are dead, but the covenant is made with Abraham and
his seed. And he gives us a very surprising exposition of this. We should
have thought it had been meant only of the people of the Jews. "Nay," says
the apostle, "it is in the singular number, and points at a single person--that
seed is Christ," So that the covenant is still in force; for Christ
abideth for ever in his person, and in his spiritual seed, who are his by
faith. And if it be objected that the law which was given by Moses did
disannul this covenant, because that insisted so much upon works, and there
was so little in it of faith or of the promised Messiah, he answers that the
subsequent law could not disannul the previous covenant or promise (v.
18): If the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise; but,
says he, God gave it to Abraham by promise, and therefore it would be
inconsistent with his holiness, wisdom, and faithfulness, by any subsequent
act to set aside the promise, and so alter the way of justification which he
had thus established. If the inheritance was given to Abraham by promise,
and thereby entailed upon his spiritual seed, we may be sure that God would
not retract that promise; for he is not a man that he should repent.
|Design of the Law; The True
Children of Abraham.
A. D. 56.
19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was
added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the
promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a
mediator. 20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is
one. 21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid:
for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily
righteousness should have been by the law. 22 But the scripture hath
concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be
given to them that believe.
The apostle having just before been speaking of the promise made to
Abraham, and representing that as the rule of our justification, and not the
law, lest they should think he did too much derogate from the law, and
render it altogether useless, he thence takes occasion to discourse of the
design and tendency of it, and to acquaint us for what purposes it was
given. It might be asked, "If that promise be sufficient for salvation,
wherefore then serveth the law? Or, Why did God give the law by Moses?" To
this he answers,
I. The law was added because of transgressions,
19. It was not designed to disannul the promise, and to establish a
different way of justification from that which was settled by the promise;
but it was added to it, annexed on purpose to be subservient to it,
and it was so because of transgressions. The Israelites, though they
were chosen to be God's peculiar people, were sinners as well as others, and
therefore the law was given to convince them of their sin, and of their
obnoxiousness to the divine displeasure on the account of it; for by the
law is the knowledge of sin (Rom.
iii. 20), and the law entered that sin might abound,
v. 20. And it was also intended to restrain them from the commission of
sin, to put an awe upon their minds, and be a curb upon their lusts, that
they should not run into that excess of riot to which they were naturally
inclined; and yet at the same time it was designed to direct them to the
true and only way whereby sin was to be expiated, and wherein they might
obtain the pardon of it; namely, through the death and sacrifice of Christ,
which was the special use for which the law of sacrifices and purifications
The apostle adds that the law was given for this purpose till
the seed should come to whom the promise was made; that is, either till
Christ should come (the principle seed referred to in the promise, as he had
before shown), or till the gospel dispensation should take place, when Jews
and Gentiles, without distinction, should, upon believing, become the seed
of Abraham. The law was added because of transgressions, till this fulness
of time, or this complete dispensation, should come. But when the seed came,
and a fuller discovery of divine grace in the promise was made, then the
law, as given by Moses, was to cease; that covenant, being found faulty, was
to give place to another, and a better,
Heb. viii. 7, 8. And though the law, considered as the law of nature, is
always in force, and still continues to be of use to convince men of sin and
to restrain them from it, yet we are now no longer under the bondage and
terror of that legal covenant. The law then was not intended to discover
another way of justification, different from that revealed by the promise,
but only to lead men to see their need of the promise, by showing them the
sinfulness of sin, and to point them to Christ, through whom alone they
could be pardoned and justified.
As a further proof that the law was not designed to vacate the
promise, the apostle adds, It was ordained by angels in the hand of a
mediator. It was given to different persons, and in a different manner
from the promise, and therefore for different purposes. The promise was made
to Abraham, and all his spiritual seed, including believers of all nations,
even of the Gentiles as well as the Jews; but the law was given to the
Israelites as a peculiar people, and separated from the rest of the world.
And, whereas the promise was given immediately by God himself, the law was
given by the ministry of angels, and the hand of a mediator. Hence it
appeared that the law could not be designed to set aside the promise; for (v.
20), A mediator is not a mediator of one, of one party only;
but God is one, but one party in the promise or covenant made with
Abraham: and therefore it is not to be supposed that by a transaction which
passed only between him and the nation of the Jews he should make void a
promise which he had long before made to Abraham and all his spiritual seed,
whether Jews or Gentiles. This would not have been consistent with his
wisdom, nor with his truth and faithfulness. Moses was only a mediator
between God and the spiritual seed of Abraham; and therefore the law that
was given by him could not affect the promise made to them, much less be
subversive of it.
II. The law was given to convince men of the necessity of a
Saviour. The apostle asks (v.
21), as what some might be willing to object, "Is the law then
against the promises of God? Do they really clash and interfere with
each other? Or do you not set the covenant with Abraham, and the law of
Moses, at variance with one another?" To this he answers, God forbid;
he was far from entertaining such a thought, nor could it be inferred from
what he had said. The law is by no means inconsistent with the promise, but
subservient to it, as the design of it is to discover men's transgressions,
and to show them the need they have of a better righteousness than that of
the law. That consequence would much rather follow from their doctrine than
from his; for, if there had been a law given that could have given life,
verily righteousness would have been by the law, and in that case the
promise would have been superseded and rendered useless. But that in our
present state could not be, for the scripture hath concluded all under
22), or declared that all, both Jew and Gentile, are in a state of
guilt, and therefore unable to attain to righteousness and justification by
the works of the law. The law discovered their wounds, but could not afford
them a remedy: it showed that they were guilty, because it appointed
sacrifices and purifications, which were manifestly insufficient to take
away sin: and therefore the great design of it was that the promise by
faith of Jesus Christ might be given to those that believe, that being
convinced of their guilt, and the insufficiency of the law to effect a
righteousness for them, they might be persuaded to believe on Christ, and so
obtain the benefit of the promise.