Commentary on Galatian 3:1-5

Christ Crucified before Us. 

"Who did bewitch you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth crucified?" Jesus was set forth before the Galatians, when Paul preached to them, as openly crucified before their eyes. So vivid was the presentation, that they could actually see Christ crucified. It was not skillful word-painting on the part of Paul, nor imagination on the part of the Galatians, for then it would have been only deception. No; it was an actual fact; Christ was there, crucified, before their eyes, and Paul by the Spirit enabled them to see Him. We know that it was not Paul's skill in making beautiful word pictures that enabled them to fancy that they saw the crucifixion, for elsewhere Paul says that he deter- {101} mined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and that he purposely and carefully refrained from using the wisdom of words, for fear that he should make the cross of Christ without effect. 1 Cor. 1:17, 18; 2:1-4. The experience of the Galatians in this matter was not peculiar to them. The cross of Christ is a present thing. The expression, "Come to the cross," is not an empty form of words, but an invitation that can be literally complied with. Christ is crucified before us, and each blade of grass, each leaf in the forest, reveals the fact. Yea, we have the testimony in our own bodies, in that, although sinful and corruptible, we yet live. Not until one has seen Christ crucified before his eyes, and can see the cross of Christ at every turn, does one know the reality of the Gospel. Let those scoff who will; the fact that a blind man can not see the sun, and denies that it shines, will not deter one who sees it from talking of its glory. Many there are who can testify that it is something more than a figure of speech, when the apostle says that Christ was crucified before the eyes of the Galatians. They have had the experience. God grant that this study of Galatians, before it is finished, may be the means of opening the eyes of many more, so that they may see Christ crucified before their eyes, and know Him crucified in them and for them.

A Good Beginning.

 The question, "Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" admits of but one answer. It was by the hearing of faith. The Spirit is given to those who believe. John 7:39; {102} Eph. 1:13. The question also shows that the Galatians had received the Holy Spirit. There is no other way of beginning the Christian life. "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." 1 Cor. 12:3. In the beginning the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, begetting life and activity in the creation; for without the Spirit there is no motion—no life. "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." Zech. 4:6. The Spirit of God alone can carry out the perfect will of God, and no works that a man can do can bring Him into the soul, any more than a dead man can manufacture the breath by which he can be made to live and move. Those to whom Paul addressed this Epistle had seen Christ crucified before their eyes, and had accepted Him through the Spirit. Have you also seen and accepted Him?

Hold Fast the Beginning. 

"Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now perfected in the flesh?" Foolish is but a feeble term for it. The man who has not power to begin a work, has strength to finish it! He who has not strength to put one foot before the other, or even to stand alone, has strength enough in himself to win a race! Impossible. Who has power to beget himself? No one; we come into this world without having begotten ourselves; we are born without strength; and, therefore, all the strength that ever manifests itself in us, comes from another than ourselves. It is all given to us. The new-born babe is the representative of man. "A man is born into the world." All the strength that any man has {103} of himself is found in the infant as it utters its first cry with its first breath. And even that feeble strength is not of itself. Even so in things spiritual. "Of His own will begat He us with the Word of truth." James 1:18. We can no more live righteous lives by our own strength than we could beget ourselves. The work that is begun by the Spirit, must be carried to completion by the Spirit. "We are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end." Heb. 3:14. "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Phil. 1:6. And He alone can do it.

Experience in the Gospel.

"Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" These questions show that the experience of the Galatian brethren had been as deep and as real as would be expected from those before whose eyes Christ was openly crucified. The Spirit had been given to them, miracles had been wrought among them, and even by them, for the gifts of the Spirit accompany the gift of the Spirit; and as the result of this living Gospel among them, they had suffered persecution; for "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." 2 Tim. 3:12. This makes the case the more serious. Having shared the sufferings of Christ, they were now departing from Him; and this departure from Christ, through whom alone righteousness can come, was {104} marked by disobedience to the law of truth. They were insensibly but inevitably transgressing the law to which they were looking for salvation.

E. J. Waggoner.

The Glad Tidings, Chapter III, pp. 100-104.