New Defender's Study Bible Notes
3:1 foolish Galatians. Unlike most of his other epistles, Galatians includes no prayer requests from Paul, nor any commendations of the church and its ministry. Paul had preached the doctrines of salvation by grace and Christian liberty so clearly and effectively when he had first established these churches that it was hard for him to understand how they could so quickly and easily be led into false doctrine. If anything this is even a greater problem today than in Paul’s day. Professing Christians are being “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14), not only with legalism but also with evolutionism, emotionalism, libertinism, and many other unscriptural heresies. Many, like the Galatians, have been “bewitched” by clever persuasion into such deceptions. The Greek word for “bewitched” is used only this once in the New Testament, and does not necessarily refer to witchcraft as such. The connotation is “fascinated” or “deceived.”
3:6 righteousness. Paul here was referring to Genesis 15:6, as he also did in Romans 4:3, and as James did in James 2:23. Thus, as he repeatedly stresses, the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ, accompanied by the corollary truth of having Christ’s perfect righteousness imputed to us while He is made sin for us and bears our penalty, is not merely a divine afterthought following the failure of Israel under the law. It was the very means by which Abraham himself, the patriarchal father of Israel, was saved, and which continues to apply today.
3:7 children of Abraham. Abraham is not merely the ancestral father of the nation of Israel, but also of all those people of every nation and every age who come to the true God of creation (compare Genesis 15:5), through faith in His Son Jesus Christ (note John 8:56-58, concerning Abraham’s understanding of the coming day of Christ).
3:8 scripture. God’s original promise to Abraham, quoted here from Genesis 12:3, required the coming of Christ into the world to redeem the world for its fulfillment. Since the promise was with reference to “all nations,” and due to the fact that this was long before Israel became a nation, Abraham surely understood the promise to be of universal scope. Abraham thus believed this very early form of the gospel and was justified by faith many years before God gave him the sign of circumcision as a token of the covenant (Genesis 17:9-14).
3:8 justify the heathen. “Heathen” is the same as “nations” and “Gentiles.” God’s Word, as given to Abraham, therefore indicated that all nations would be justified by faith (at this time, there was as yet no distinction between Jews and Gentiles). This was a unique revelation in a day when all the world’s nations had already drifted away from monotheism and creationism and were relying on “works” to achieve whatever they may have understood by “salvation” or “justification.”
3:10 it is written. See Deuteronomy 27:26. It was impossible, of course, for any Israelite or any one else, to keep “all” the commandments of the law (James 2:10), and therefore they were all under the “curse” of the law. All men were already under God’s universal curse because of sin (Genesis 3:17-19), but now the curse becomes more explicit because the definition of sin has become more explicit. No one in Israel could any longer offer the excuse that they did not know what sin was, because the law as given to Moses had spelled it out quite clearly. “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law” (Romans 7:7).
3:11 just shall live by faith. In defense of his thesis, Paul not only argues from Genesis but also from the prophets, here quoting from Habakkuk 2:4 (see also Romans 1:17 and Hebrews 10:38). Martin Luther made this great verse, with its doctrine of justification by faith, the watchword of the Reformation.
3:12 that doeth them. This citation is from Leviticus 18:5, again reminding the Christians that if they were determined to submit to Jewish legalism, they would be obligated not only to assent to the law but to do it, and do all of it. This could earn salvation for them, theoretically, if they could do all the laws, but they could not. Only Christ could fulfill all the law (Matthew 5:17), so it is imperative that we receive His righteousness by imputation, and this can only be received through faith.
3:13 a curse for us. Christ has borne the curse for us, both the Adamic curse and the Mosaic curse, even to the extent of the very form of His death, being executed by hanging on a tree, as specified and prophesied (Deuteronomy 21:22-23; Psalm 22:1, 6,16).
3:16 to thy seed. In his theological argument concerning the Abrahamic covenant, Paul almost unconsciously, as it were, makes an exceedingly strong affirmation of the verbal inspiration of the Old Testament Scriptures, basing his argument not just on one word, but one letter, “seed” instead of “seeds.” Thus the promised “Seed” was not the nation Israel, but the one Person who alone could fulfill the great promises made to Abraham, namely, Christ (see Genesis 22:17-18).
3:17 four hundred and thirty years. The 430 years from the Abrahamic promise until the giving of the law to Moses and the 430 years of Israel’s extended stay in Egypt (Exodus 12:40) parallel each other, provided that the reference to “the covenant” here in Galatians 3:17 refers to the final ratification of this covenant, as confirmed to Jacob just as he and his family were leaving Canaan for Egypt (Genesis 46:1-4). This seems quite reasonable in the context of Paul’s argument; see also the comments on Acts 7:6 and Genesis 15:13.
3:19 till the seed should come. Therefore the law would have fulfilled its primary function once the promised Seed came to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). It was foolish (Galatians 3:1) for the Galatians to want to return to legalistic bondage.
3:19 ordained by angels. The account of the giving of the law through Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:9-25) makes no mention of angels, although it does record the prolonged sounding of a trumpet; apparently a mighty host of angels was present. Deuteronomy 33:2 mentions “ten thousands of saints” as “the LORD came from Sinai.” See also Psalm 68:17 and Acts 7:53.
3:22 all under sin. The law “was added because of transgressions” (Galatians 3:19), to make it clear what sin is—as a transgression of the character and will of God. When people understand the nature of sin, it soon becomes clear that all are sinners (Romans 3:10,12,23) and need to come to Christ for forgiveness and salvation.
3:24 schoolmaster. A “schoolmaster” (Greek paidagogos) was a person (often a slave) who was delegated as tutor and guardian for young boys until they came of age (usually about eighteen years of age). It was a temporary, and not very prestigious, position. When the son entered on all the privileges of adult sonship, the schoolmaster’s responsibilities were finished. Paul compares this domestic relationship to the spiritual relationships when Christ replaces the law as the controlling basis of our lives.
3:27 baptized into Christ. See Romans 6:3; I Corinthians 12:13. When we have been “immersed” into the spiritual body of Christ, then He becomes our spiritual identity.
3:28 all one in Christ. Although national identity, economic status, marital relationship and other such distinctions are very real in the divine economy, our position in Christ is completely independent of any such matters. Every Christian is saved simply through faith in Christ and will be rewarded as a Christian simply in relation to what he or she has done in proportion to light and opportunities given, as well as their motives in doing it (I Corinthians 3:11-15).