Dr. Beeke’s Top Commentaries on Galatians

You can find Dr. Beeke’s recommendations on Galatians at the:
Reformation Heritage Books blog.

The original blog post is here: Beeke’s Picks for Galatians.


#1 Galatians, by Martin Luther

Considered to be among those works essential to an understanding of Martin Luther’s theology, Luther’s Commentary on Galatians is a timeless exposition of Paul’s central thought in Galatians: “The just shall live be faith.” All readers will benefit from Luther’s doctrinally sound, verse-by-verse exposition. Originally written in Latin, Luther’s Commentary on Galatians is here translated into English by Rev. Erasmus Middleton.

#2 Galatians, by John Brown

Originally published in Edinburgh in 1853 by William Oliphant & Sons and republished by The Banner of Truth Trust in 2001, this commentary on the entire book of Galatians by Dr. John Brown of Edinburgh(1784- 1858) is part of the Geneva Series of Commentaries. Written in the Reformed tradition with an exegetical/application focus, this section by section treatment of Galatians is well suited for students, pastors, and teachers who have a familiarity with Greek and Hebrew. Based on the KJV, this commentary provides indices of principle matters, Hebrew and Greek words, authors, and texts. 451 pages, hardcover from The Banner of Truth Trust.

#3 John Calvin’s Sermons on Galatians, by John Calvin

Kathy Childress, the translator from the original French of this book says, “Calvin exposes human nature with profound insight…he brings this world into sharp focus and enables us to see its frivolity. However, he does not leave us to wallow in despair, but points us to the Saviour…No sinner, having read these sermons, could mistake the remedy…The Lord Jesus Christ is the focal point…There is judgement here, enough to make the sinner quake with fear, but then there is also mercy to warm the heart and lift the fainting spirit”.

#4 A Commentary on Galatians, by William Perkins

#5 St. Paul’s Epistle to the Churches of Galatia, by Herman Ridderbos

Ridderbos’ volume is the original commentary on Galatians from The New International Commentary on the New Testament series.  This book is out of print, but if you are able to find a copy, buy it.  Although the commentary is short in length it provides many helpful redemptive-historical insights.

#6 Free in Christ: The Message of Galatians, by Edgar Andrews

Paul’s epistle to the Galatians can be summarized by one simple question: What is the gospel? What is the real gospel, as opposed to false gospels or (to use Paul’s own terminology) perverted gospels? One recent commentator has written, ‘Historically, Galatians has been foundational for many forms of Christian doctrine, proclamation and practice. And it remains true today to say that how one understands the issues and teaching of Galatians determines in large measure what kind of theology is espoused, what kind of message is proclaimed, and what kind of lifestyle is practised.’

#7 The Message of Galatians, by John Stott

To enclaves of young converts tucked away in the mountains of Asia Minor, Paul wrote what is perhaps the oldest document in the New Testament–the letter to the Galatians. What problems were they facing? Among a variety of religious authorities espousing different teachings, how were they to know who was right? How were men and women to be put right with God? How could Christians in the midst of a pagan culture live lives truly pleasing to God? ’Only one way–’ ansered Paul, ‘through Jesus Christ.’ His answer holds true for us as well. The details of our struggle have changed since Paul’s day, but the principles he sets forth are as timeless as the Lord he exalts. In this book John Stott helpf us to understand and apply the message of Galatians in the face of contemporary challenges to our faith.

Another Spurgeon Exposition of Gal 5:13-26

The following is an exposition by Charles Spurgeon, delivered on May 17, 1903.  In it, Sprugeon gives a very brief exposition on Gal 5:13-26, touching on walking in, and the fruit of, the Holy Spirit, and conversely, the Flesh.  The source may be found: HERE.

EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON

on
GALATIANS 5:13-26

Galatians 5:13. For, brethren, you have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love, serve one another.

Do not turn your liberty into license. The Apostle, in this Epistle, had began urging the Christians of Galatia to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free, and never to be, again, entangled with the yoke of legal bondage. He warned them against that error into which many have fallen. But you know that it is often our tendency, if we escape from one error, to rush into another. So the Apostle guards these Christian against that Antinomian spirit which teaches us that freedom from the law allows indulgence in sin—“Use not your liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love, serve one another.”

14. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this—You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Oh, if that “one word” were so engraved on our hearts as to influence all our lives, what blessed lives of love to God and love to men we should lead!
15. But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you be not consumed one of another.

When dogs and wolves bite one another, it is according to their nature, but it is indeed bad when sheep take to biting one another. If I must be bitten at all, let me be bitten by a dog rather than by a sheep. That is to say, the wounds inflicted by the godly are far more painful to bear and last much longer than those caused by wicked men. Besides, we can say with the Psalmist, “It was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it.” It is natural that the serpent’s seed should nibble at our heel and seek to do us injury, but when the bite comes from a Brother—from a child of God—then it is peculiarly painful. Well might the Apostle write, “If you bite and devour one another, take heed that you be not consumed one of another.” I have lived long enough to see churches absolutely destroyed, not by any external attacks, but by internal contention.
16. This I say then, walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

If your life is guided by the Spirit of God—if you are spiritual men and women, and your actions are worked in the power of the Spirit, “you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
17. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh…

They will never agree—these two powers are always contrary, one to the other. If you think that you can help God by getting angry, you make a great mistake.  You cannot fight God’s battles with the devil’s weapons. It is not possible that the power of the flesh should help the power of the Spirit!
17, 18. And these are contrary, the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you would. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The Law of God is always to you the blessed rule by which you judge your conduct, but it is not a law of condemnation to you—neither are you seeking salvation by it.
19-21. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these—Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings and such like…

The list is always too long to be completed! We are obliged to sum up with a kind of et cetera—“and such like.”

21. Of which I tell you beforehand, as I have also told you in times past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.

A very solemn, searching, sweeping declaration! Let each man judge himself by this test! “The fruit of the Spirit” is equally manifest, as the Apostle goes on to say.

22, 23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Neither human nor Divine! Good men make no law against these things, nor does God, for He approves of them. What a wonderful cluster of the grapes of Eshcol we have here! “The fruit of the Spirit”— as if all this were but one, after all—many luscious berries forming one great cluster. Oh, that all these things may be in us and abound, that we may be neither barren nor unfruitful!
24. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

It is not yet dead, but it is crucified. It hangs up on the cross, straining to break away from the iron hold, but it cannot, for it is doomed to die. Happy, indeed, shall that day be when it shall be wholly dead.

25, 26. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.  Let us not be desirous of vain-glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

Do Christian people need to be talked to like this? Yes, they do, for the best of men are but men at their best—and the godliest saint is liable to fall into the foulest sin unless the Grace of God prevents it. Oh, that we could expel from the Church of Christ all vain-glorying, all provoking of one another and all envying of one another! How often, if one Christian Brother does a little more than his fellow workers, they begin to find fault with him! And if one is blessed with greater success than others are, how frequently that success is disparaged and spoken of slightingly! This spirit of envy is, more or less, in all of us, and though, perhaps, we are not exhibiting it just now, it only needs a suitable opportunity for its display and it would be manifested. No man here has any idea of how bad he really is. You do not know how good the Grace of God can make you, nor how bad you are by nature, nor how bad you might become if that nature were left to itself!

Spurgeon Exposition of Gal 5:13-26

The following is an exposition by Charles Spurgeon, delivered on July 23, 1889.  In it, Sprugeon gives a very brief exposition on Gal 5:13-26, touching on walking in, and the fruit of, the Holy Spirit, and conversely, the Flesh.  The source may be found: HERE.

EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON

on
GALATIANS 5:13-26

Remember, beloved Brothers and Sisters, that the Epistle to the Galatians is one in which Paul, with especial clearness, proves the Doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone. So much is this the case that the famous Commentary of Martin Luther upon this Epistle is, perhaps, the strongest work extant upon the Doctrine of salvation by Grace through faith.  But that doctrine was never intended to be separated from the Scriptural teaching concerning the fruit of faith, namely, good works and, therefore, we find, in the close of this very Epistle, the strongest possible declaration that if men live in sin, they will reap the result of sin—and that only if, by Grace, they are brought to walk in holiness, will they win the rewards of Grace.

Galatians 5:13. For, brethren, you have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh.

“Do not make license out of your liberty. Remember that liberty from sin is not liberty to sin.”

13, 14. But by love serve one another. For all the Law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

The condensation of the whole Law of God is contained in that one word, “love.” In the First Table we are taught to love God. And the Commandments of the Second Table teach us to love our neighbor.

15. But if you bite and devour one another…

Finding fault, slandering, injuring, bearing malice and so on—
…take heed that you are not consumed, one of another.

“You will eat one another up. You will, each one, condemn his neighbor.”

Paul represents the great Judge coming and waiting outside the door. And when He hears two men condemning one another, He says to Himself, “I will confirm their verdict. They have mutually condemned each other, I will say ‘Amen’ to it.” What a sad thing it is if professed Christians are found thus condemning one another!

16. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.

Walk under the Spirit’s power, following His guidance. The Spirit never leads a man into sin. He never conducts him into self-indulgence and excess.

17. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary, the one to the other, so that you cannot do the things that you would.

How often that is the case! You would be perfect, but, “you cannot do the things that you would.” We would, if possible, escape from every evil thought—we would not even hear of anything sinful if we could help it.

18, 19. But if you are led of the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness.

Any kind of sensual indulgence—whatever it may be—a lustful glance, the cherishing of an unclean desire—the utterance of a foul expression—all this is condemned, as well as the overt acts of adultery and fornication.

20, 21. Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envying, murders, drunkenness.

Is drunkenness actually put by the Apostle after murder, as though it were something worse than that terrible crime? Or is it not, oftentimes, the case that drunkenness lies at the bottom of the murder?

21. …reveling and such like: of the which I told you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.

Paul never said, nor ever thought of saying, that a man might live in sin that Grace might abound. No, no—these evil things must be given up! Christ has come to save us from every evil work. And this is the salvation that we preach—not simply salvation from Hell, but salvation from sin—which is the very fire that has kindled the infernal flame. But how different from all this evil is the fruit of the Spirit!

22. But the fruit of the Spirit is love…

Universal love, first, to God. Next, to His people and, then, to all mankind. Have we that fruit of the Spirit? If so, it will make us of a very amiable disposition. It will dethrone selfishness and set up holy affections within our heart.

22, 23. …joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: …

Joy and peace seem to blossom and ripen out of love. Long-suffering, too, is part of the fruit of the Spirit. You will be hourly tried, but the Spirit of God will give you patience to suffer long and to endure much. You will also have gentleness. Some people are very hard, stern, severe, quick-tempered, passionate—but the true follower of Christ will be gentle and tender, even as He was.

23. …against such there is no law.

Neither God nor man has ever made a law against these things—the more there is of them, the better will it be for everybody. Oh, that they prevailed all over the world!

24. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

A crucified Christ is the leader of a crucified people! Oh, to have all the affections and lusts of the flesh nailed up! They may not be actually dead, for those who are crucified may still live on for some hours, but they are doomed to die. Their life is a very painful one and it is hastening to a close. A man who is crucified cannot get down from the cross to do what he wills and, oh, it is a great blessing to have our sinful self thus nailed up!

Ah, Sir, you may struggle, but you cannot get down! You may strive and cry, but your hands and feet are nailed—you cannot go into active, actual sin. The Lord grant that the nails may hold very fast, that none of the struggling of our old nature may be able to pull out those nails that have fastened it up to the cross!

25. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

If that is our real life, let it also be our course of action.

26. Let us not be desirous of vain-glory,

Do not let us want to be accounted as somebody, for, if we do, we prove that we are  really nobody! Nobody is anybody till he is willing to be nobody—as long as he wants to be somebody, he is nobody and nothing!

26. …provoking one another, envying one another.

God save us from that and every other form of evil!

Eric Alexander Preaches Galatians

I do not recall now exactly who it was, but some time ago someone recommended to me the expository sermon series on Galatians by Eric Alexander. I just returned to this series again and I’ve enjoyed it more than any preaching series on Galatians to date.

Eric J Alexander has been ordained as a minister in the Church of Scotland for over fifty years. …In 1962 that he was called to the parish of Loudoun East Church, in the Covenanting district of Ayrshire, in the village of Newmilns. After 15 years there, in 1977, he was aware of God’s call to the city centre church of St George’s Tron, in Glasgow, where he served as senior minister for 20 years, until his retirement in 1997. During these 20 years, large congregations, of all ages, gathered, both morning and evening, to listen to expository sermons from both Old and New Testaments.

According to his website:

Eric Alexander has spent his adult life serving Jesus Christ, in His Church, as a minister of His Word. He has preached Christ exclusively from Holy Scripture, convinced that the Bible is the only reliable and sufficient revelation God has given us of His Son.

Sermons

Galatians 1

Galatians 2

Galatians 3

Galatians 4

Galatians 5

Galatians 6

Galatians 7

Galatians 8

Galatians 9

Galatians 10

Galatians 11

Galatians 12

Galatians 13

Galatians 14

Galatians 15

Interpreting Galatians

Tom Schreiner has re-released an updated edition of his work: Interpreting the Pauline Epistles. I’m working through the book as I study the Epistle to the Galatians.

Literary Genre: Letter

In the first chapter, Dr. Schreiner briefly discusses different literary genres, and concludes, obviously, that the 13 epistles of Paul are of the ‘letter genre’. Paul’s epistles:

    • Are occasional in nature,
    • and, they address specific problems,
    • but, are not modeled after literary Greek rhetoric,
    • nor are simply crude personal correspondence

In fact…

  • They are not simple throw-away letters by which had no intention of being re-read or passed around. They are written in a careful structured style and are written in an authoritative manner
  • Paul wrote with apostolic authority and expected his words to be read/obeyed

1 Corinthians 14:37 (KJV) – If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 5:27 (KJV) – I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.

2 Thessalonians 3:14 (KJV) – And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

Colossians 4:16 (KJV) – And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.

Thus, Paul wrote with authority, and expected the things he wrote to passed about and obeyed as the Words of God.

I was hoping Dr. Schreiner might have more to say regarding whether he considered some, none, or all of Paul’s writings to be epistles (versus letters), but he said little to nothing about the contrast between the two. See my writing on the topic in the following posts:

What is an Epistle?
What is an Epistle?, part 2

Structure of the Letter

Later in the first chapter, Dr. Schreiner overviews the structure of a Greco-Roman letter, comprised of 3 main sections: Opening, Body, and Closing.

Opening

Greco-Roman letters have 4 primary ingredients as a part of a letter opening: sender, recipient, Greeting, Prayer.

Sender – There is significance in the various titles (servant, apostle, etc.) that Paul uses to describe himself in his letters. In Galatians, he uses the following title:

“Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)…”

Perhaps, here, Paul is trying to emphasize his apostolic authority right off the bat, the issue which he spends considerable space defending in this epistle. He emphasizes that his apostleship is not from/through man, but Jesus Christ and God the Father.

Recipient“…To the churches of Galatia…”

Greeting – Typical Greek letters began with the word χαίρειν (greetings), but Paul normally uses χάρισ ῾υμίν (grace to you). In Galatians, Paul uses “...Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ…”.

Prayer – Hellenistic letters often wished the reader health and then included a prayer to the gods. According to Schreiner*, only Galatians and Titus lack a prayer. In Galatians, in particular, once the Apostle has introduced himself and wished God’s blessing upon his hearers, he jumps right into the matter at hand, “…I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel…’

*In a cursory reading of the openings of several of the Pauline letters, these elements can all be clearly distinguished, except for the prayer (in my opinion). Though the Apostle does mention that he regularly thanks God for the faith of his hearers, I’m not sure how to strictly distinguish an epistolary prayer from each letter.

Body

No explanation required.

Closing

Components of a closing include: prayer, commendation, final instructions, benediction, and Ἕρρωσθε. Where the closing begins can be difficult to discern and is really an interpretive choice.  The close in Galatians, according to Schreiner, is remarkably brief. There is a final exhortation (6:11-17) and a brief closing (6:18).

I wrote a few posts on the opening to the Epistle to the Galatians as shown below:

Grace to You and [then] Peace
Grace to You and [then] Peace, part 2

Galatians 1:1-5, a Puritan Commentary

1 Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)

Matthew Poole

The term apostle, in its native signification, signifieth no more then one sent; in its ecclesiastical use, it signifies one extraordinarily sent to preach the gospel; of these some were sent either more immediately by Christ, (as the twelve were sent: Mt 10:1, Mr 3:14, Lu 9:1), or more mediately, as Matthias, who was sent by the suffrage of the other apostles to supply the place of Judas, Ac 1:25-26, and Barnabas, and Silas. Paul saith he was sent not of men, neither by man, that is, not merely; for he was also sent by men to his particular province (Ac 13:3); but he was immediately sent by Jesus Christ, (as we read in Ac 9:1-43 and Ac 26:14-17), of which also he gives us an account in this chapter (Ga 1:15-17), and by God the Father also, who, he saith, raised Christ from the dead. By this phrase the apostle doth not only assert Christ’s resurrection, and the influence of the Father upon his resurrection, (though he rose by his own power, and took up his own life again, and was also quickened by the Spirit), but he also showeth a specialty in his call to the apostleship. As it differed from the call of ordinary ministers, who are called by men (though their ministry be not merely of men); so it differed from the call of the rest of the apostles, being made by Christ not in his state of humiliation, (as the twelve were called in Mt 10:1-42), but in his state of exaltation, after he was raised from the dead, and sat down on the right hand of God.

John Gill

‘Paul an apostle, not of men, neither by man…’  The writer of this epistle, Paul, puts his name to it, as to all his epistles, excepting that to the Hebrews, if that be his, being neither afraid nor ashamed to own what is herein contained. He asserts himself to be “an apostle”, which was the highest office in the church, to which he was immediately called by Christ, and confirmed in it by signs and wonders. This he chose to mention, because of the false teachers, who had insinuated he was no apostle, and not to be regarded; whereas he had received grace and apostleship from Christ, and was an apostle, “not of men”, as were the apostles or messengers of the sanhedrim; and as were the false apostles, who were sent out by men, who had no authority to send them forth: the apostle, as he did not take this honour to himself, did not thrust himself into this office, or run before he was sent; so he was not sent by men; he did not act upon human authority, or by an human commission: this is said in opposition to the false apostles, and to an unlawful investiture with the office of apostleship, and an usurpation of it, as well as to distinguish himself from the messengers and ambassadors of princes, who are sent with credentials by them to negotiate civil affairs for them in foreign courts, he being an ambassador of Christ; and from the messengers of churches, who were sometimes sent with assistance or advice to other churches; and he moreover says, “nor by man”; by a mere man, but by one that was more than a man; nor by a mortal man, but by Christ, as raised from the dead, immortal and glorious at God’s right hand: or rather the sense is, he was not chosen into the office of apostleship by the suffrages of men, as Matthias was; or he was not ordained an apostle in the manner the ordinary ministers of the Gospel and pastors are, by the churches of Christ; so that as the former clause is opposed to an unlawful call of men, this is opposed to a lawful one; and shows him to be not an ordinary minister, but an extraordinary one, who was called to this office, not mediately by men, by any of the churches as common ministers are:

‘but by Jesus Christ;’ immediately, without the intervention of men, as appears from (Acts 26:16-18) . For what Ananias did upon his conversion was only putting his hands on him to recover his sight, and baptizing him; it was Christ that appeared to him personally, and made him a minister; and his separation with Barnabas, by the church, under the direction of the Holy Ghost, (Acts 13:2-4) was to some particular work and service to be done by them, and not to apostleship, and which was long after Paul was made an apostle by Christ. Jesus Christ being here opposed to man, does not suggest that he was not a man, really and truly, for he certainly was; he partook of the same flesh and blood with us, and was in all things made like unto us, sin excepted; but that he was not a mere man, he was truly God as well as man; for as the raising him from the dead, in the next clause, shows him to be a man, or he could not have died; so his being opposed to man, and set in equality with God the Father, in this verse, and grace and peace being prayed for from him, as from the Father, (Gal 1:4) and the same glory ascribed to him as to the Father, (Gal 1:5) prove him to be truly and properly God. The apostle adds,

‘and God the Father;’ Christ and his Father being of the same nature and essence, power and authority, as they are jointly concerned and work together in the affairs or nature and Providence, so in those of grace; and particularly in constituting and ordaining apostles, and setting them in the church. This serves the more to confirm the divine authority under which Paul acted as an apostle, being not only made so by Christ, but also by God the Father, who is described as he,

‘who raised him from the dead;’ which is observed, not so much to express the divine power of the Father, or the glory of Christ, as raised from the dead, but to strengthen the validity of the apostle’s character and commission as such; to whom it might have been objected, that he had not seen Christ in the flesh, nor familiarly conversed with him, as the rest of the apostles did: to which he was able to reply, that he was not called to be an apostle by Christ in his low and mean estate of humiliation, but by him after he was raised from the dead, and was set down at the right hand of God; who personally appeared to him in his glory, and was seen by him, and who made and appointed him his apostle, to bear his name before Gentiles, and kings, and the people of Israel; so that his call to apostleship was rather more grand and illustrious than that of any of the other apostles.

2 And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:

Matthew Poole

He writeth not only in his own name, but in the name of all those other Christians that were with him in the place where he now was (whether Rome or Corinth, or some other place, is uncertain); with whose consent and privity probably he wrote, possibly at their instigation, and whose common consent in that doctrine of faith which he handleth, (as well as in other things about which he writeth), he here declareth. Some think that the apostle forbears the term saints, or sanctified in Christ Jesus, &c., commonly used in his other Epistles, because of that apostacy for which he designed to reprove them; but it is implied in the term churches. Galatia was a large country, and had in it many famous cities; it was neither wholly Christian, nor yet such as to the major part; but there were in it several particular congregations of Christians, which he calleth churches; every congregation of Christians using to meet together to worship God, being a church, a particular church, though all such congregations make up but one universal visible church. Nor, being guilty of no idolatry, though corrupted in some particular points of doctrine, and those of moment, doth the apostle deny them the name of churches, though he sharply rebuketh them for their errors.

John Gill

‘And all the brethren which are with me,’ Meaning either the brethren of the church where he was when he wrote this epistle, who were children of the same Father, regenerated by the same grace, belonged to the same family and household of God, and were heirs together of the grace of life; or else his fellow ministers, who were assisting to him in his work, and were companions with him in his travels, and whom he sometimes mentions by name and joins with him in his epistles, as Sosthenes, Silvanus, and Timothy; and the rather he takes notice of the brethren here, whoever are meant, to show that they agreed with him in the doctrines of grace he defends, and in the charges he brought against this church, and in the reproofs and advice he gave them; which he might suppose, and hope, would have the greater weight and influence upon them;

‘unto the churches of Galatia;’ Galatia was a country in the lesser Asia, inhabited by the Gauls, who coming thither out of Europe, mixed with the Grecians; whence it was first called Gallo Graecia, and afterwards Galatia. The metropolis of it, as Pliny says, was formerly Gordium, and the chief towns or cities, according to him, were Ancyra, Tavium, and Pessinus; and in some, or all of these places, it is very probable, were the churches here mentioned. It seems there were more than one in this country; for the primitive churches were not national nor provincial, but congregational, consisting of persons called out of the world, and joined together in holy fellowship and who walked in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord: and though these churches had many among them that were disorderly, and were swerving from the faith of the Gospel, yet were not unchurched, but honoured still with the name of churches, there being no perfection to be expected in this state of things; as not in particular persons, so not in congregated bodies and societies; though it is observed by some, that they are barely called churches, without any additional epithets, as churches of God, beloved of God, called to be saints, faithful and sanctified in Christ, which are bestowed on other churches; whereby the apostle is thought to show his indignation and resentment at their principles and practices. For quickly after the Gospel was preached unto them, false teachers crept in among them, endeavouring to subvert it, by mixing it with the law, and joining Moses and Christ; and in which they very much succeeded; and is the reason of the apostle’s writing this epistle.

3 Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,

Matthew Poole

A common, as well as religious and Christian, form of salutation; Paul’s mark in every Epistle, and used by him without any variation, (except in his Epistles to Timothy and Titus, where he only adds mercy &c.), the want of which, as also of his name, offers some grounds to doubt whether he wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews. Paul had used it in the beginning of his Epistle to the Romans, and both the Epistles to the Corinthians: see the notes on Ro 1:7, 1Co 1:3, and 2Co 1:2). It teaches us, in our common discourses, whether epistolary or otherwise, to speak to our friends like Christians, who understand and believe that the grace, mercy, and peace from God, are the most desirable good things.

John Gill

‘Grace to be you,’ After the inscription above, in which the writer of the epistle, and the persons joined to him, are described, and the churches to whom it is written, follows the salutation in these words, and which is common to all the epistles of this apostle; of the sense of which, see Ro 1:7. The Alexandrian copy reads, “from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ”; and the Ethiopic version reads, “our Father”.

4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:

Matthew Poole

Which Christ, though he was put to death by Pilate and the Jews, yet he was not compelled to die; for he laid down his life, no man took it from him (Joh 10:17-18). Sometimes it is said, he died for our sins (as Ro 5:8); sometimes, that he gave himself, (meaning, to death as in Eph 5:2, 25, 1Ti 2:6, Tit 2:14): he was given by his Father, and he gave himself by his own free and spontaneous act.

‘For our sins’ must be interpreted by other scriptures: here is the defect of a word here, which the Socinians would have to be remission; others, expiation (of which remission is a consequent). Both, doubtless, are to be understood, and something more also, which is expressed in the following words of the verse. Remission of sins is granted to be the effect of the death of Christ, but not the primary and sole effect thereof; but consequential to the propitiation (mentioned in Ro 3:25); the redemption (Eph 1:7); the sacrifice (Heb 10:12): both which texts show the absurdity of the Socinians, in quoting those texts to favour their notion of Christ’s dying for the remission of our sins, without giving the justice of God satisfaction. And though some other texts mention Christ’s dying for our sins, without mention of such expiation, propitiation, redemption, or satisfaction; yet they must be interpreted by the latitude of the end of Christ’s death (expressed in other scriptures) relating to sin. Which is not only expiation and remission, but the delivery of us from the lusts and corruptions of this present evil world. The apostle here deciphers this world, by calling it present and evil: by the first, he hinteth to us, that there is a world to come; by the latter, he showeth the sinful practices of the greatest part of men, (for by world he means the corruption of persons living in the world), they are evil; and this was one end of Christ’s death, to deliver his saints from their evil practices and examples; thus (1Pe 1:18) we are said to be by the blood of Christ redeemed from a vain conversation received by tradition from our fathers. This (he saith) was done according to the will of God; the Greek word is θελημα, not διαθηκην: the will of God is his decree, purpose, or good pleasure, so as it signifieth both his eternal purpose, (according to Eph 1:4), and his present pleasure or consent. I see no ground for the Socinian criticism, who would have us understand by it, God’s testament, or present will for things to be done after death; the word importeth no more than God’s eternal purpose, as to the redemption of man by the blood of Christ, and his well pleasedness with his undertaking and performance of that work; this God he calleth our Father, not with respect to creation so much as adoption.

John Gill

‘Who gave himself for our sins,’ The antecedent to the relative “who, is our Lord Jesus Christ”, Gal 1:3 and the words are an illustration of the good will of God the Father, and of the grace and love of Christ, in the gift of himself, for the sins of his people: he did not merely give, “sua, his own things”, what were his properly, but, “se, himself”; not the world, and the fulness of it, gold, silver, and such like corruptible things; no, nor men for them, and people for their lives; nor angels, his creatures, and ministering spirits; but his own self, his life, his flesh, his blood, his body, and soul, his whole human nature, and this as in union with himself, a divine person, the eternal Son of God. He gave himself freely, cheerfully, voluntarily, into the hands of men, justice, and death itself, as a sacrifice for sin, to expiate it, make reconciliation and atonement for it, which could not be done by the sacrifices of the legal dispensation; to procure the remission of it, which could not be had without shedding or blood; and utterly to take it away, finish it, and make an end of it, and abolish it, so as that it might never rise any more to the condemnation of his people: and this reached to “sins” of all sorts, not only original, but actual, and these of thought, word, and deed; and this oblation of himself upon the cross, was not for any sin of his own, who had none, nor for the sins of angels, of whom he was no Redeemer aud Saviour, but “for our sins”; not the sins of the apostles, or of the Jews only, nor yet of all mankind, but of God’s elect, called the friends of Christ, his sheep and church, for whom he gave himself; and his end in so doing was,

‘that he might deliver us from this present evil world;’ by which is meant, either the Jewish world, or church state, in which were a worldly sanctuary, and which were subject to ceremonies and traditions, called the elements and rudiments of the world; and who were possessed of worldly notions, and in expectation of a worldly kingdom to be set up by the Messiah; and both in principle and in practice were sadly degenerated, and were become very evil and wicked: or the present age and generation of men, whether of Jews or Gentiles, which was so corrupt, as the like was never known; or in general the present world, and the men of it, in distinction either from the world before the flood, as in 2 Peter 3:5-7 or rather from the new heavens and earth, which will be after the present ones, and wherein will dwell righteousness; or, in a word, from the world which is to come, as they are frequently opposed in Scripture: and which is said to be “evil”, not with respect to the matter, that being all very good, as created by God; but with respect to the men of it, who lie in wickedness, under the power of the wicked one, and of their own sins; and to the things which are in it, all which are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Now Christ gave himself a sacrifice for the sins of his people, that as in consequence of this they might be delivered and saved from the damning power, so from the governing power and influence of all that is evil in this present world; as from Satan, the god of it, who has usurped a power over it; from the lusts that are predominant in it; from the vain conversation of the men of it; from the general conflagration of it at the last day, and from the perdition of ungodly men, and their eternal destruction in hell: and all this is

‘according to the will of God, and our Father,’ It was by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God that Christ was delivered up into the hands of wicked men, and put to death by them; it was his will of purpose and decree, to deliver him up into the hands of justice and death, and that he should give himself sacrifice for sin; yea, it was his will of command, that he should lay down his life for his sheep, to which he was obedient; it was his pleasure, it was what was agreeable to him, was to his good liking, that he should die for the sins of his people; it was owing to the love of God, who is our Father in Christ, and by adopting grace, and not to any worth or desert of ours, that Christ gave himself for us; as his own love, so his Father’s will, were what solely moved him to it.

5 To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Matthew Poole

To which Father (yet not excluding the Son), for great benefits bestowed upon us, be honour, and praise, from age to age, and to all eternity. The term Amen, being always used in Scripture either as a term of assertion, to aver the truth of a thing, or as a term of wishing, may here be understood in either or both senses; the apostle using it either to assert the glorifying of God to be our duty, and a homage we owe to God; or to signify his hearty desire that this homage may from all hands be paid unto him.

John Gill

‘To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.’ That is, either to Christ, who gave himself to expiate the sins of his people, on the account of which all honour and glory are due to him from them; or to God the Father, according to whose will of purpose and command Christ gave himself, for which glory ought to be ascribed unto him; and it may well be thought, that both are taken into this doxology: the Father is to be glorified, who of his everlasting love, and free favour, did in his eternal purposes and decrees in his counsel and covenant, so wisely frame and order things, that his own Son should be given to be an offering for sin; and Christ is to be glorified, that he, of his free rich grace and love, agreed to give himself, and did give himself to be a ransom for his people, which has been testified in due time. This ascription of glory to both shows the greatness of the blessing, and the grateful sense which all interested in it ought to bear upon their minds continually, “for ever and ever”; or “to the ages of ages”, a Jewish phrase, the same with Nymle ymlel. To which the apostle adds his “Amen”, as joining with all the saints, above or below, in ascribing salvation, and the glory of it, to him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever.

Galatians 1:6-10, Geneva Study Bible

Stephanus, 1550

Θαυμάζω ὅτι οὕτως ταχέως μετατίθεσθε ἀπὸ τοῦ καλέσαντος ὑμᾶς ἐν χάριτι Χριστοῦ εἰς ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον ὃ οὐκ ἔστιν ἄλλο εἰ μή τινές εἰσιν οἱ ταράσσοντες ὑμᾶς καὶ θέλοντες μεταστρέψαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐὰν ἡμεῖς ἢ ἄγγελος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ εὐαγγελίζηται ὑμῖν παρ’ ὃ εὐηγγελισάμεθα ὑμῖν ἀνάθεμα ἔστω ὡς προειρήκαμεν καὶ ἄρτι πάλιν λέγω εἴ τις ὑμᾶς εὐαγγελίζεται παρ’ ὃ παρελάβετε ἀνάθεμα ἔστω Ἄρτι γὰρ ἀνθρώπους πείθω ἢ τὸν θεόν ἢ ζητῶ ἀνθρώποις ἀρέσκειν εἰ γὰρ ἔτι ἀνθρώποις ἤρεσκον Χριστοῦ δοῦλος οὐκ ἂν ἤμην

Geneva Bible, 1599

I3 marvel that ye are so soone removed away unto another Gospel, from him that had called you in the grace of Christ, Which4 is not another Gospel, save that there be some which trouble you, and intend to pervertf the Gospel of Christ. But though that we, or an Angel from heaven preach unto you otherwise than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursedg. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach unto you otherwise, than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For5 now preach Ih man’s doctrine, or God’s? Or go I about to please men? For if I should yet please men, I were not the servant of Christ.

 

Geneva Bible Notes

3 The first part of the Epistle wherein he witnesseth that he is an Apostle, nothing inferior to those chief disciples of Christ, and wholly agreeing with them, whose names the false apostles did abuse. And he beginneth with chiding, reproving them of lightness for that they have ear so easily unto them which perverted them and drew them away to a new Gospel.

e He useth the passive voice, to cast the fault upon the false apostles, and he useth the time that now is, to give them to understand, that it was not already done, but in doing.

4 He warneth them in time to remember that there are not many Gospels; and therefore whatsoever these false apostles pretend which had the Law, Moses and the Fathers in their mouths, yet they are indeed so many corruptions of the true Gospel, insomuch, that he himself, yea, and the very Angels themselves, (and therefore much more these false apostles) ought to be holden accursed, if they go about to change the least iota that may be in the Gospel, that he delivered to them before.

f For there is nothing more contrary to faith or free justification, than justification by the Law, or by our deserving.

g Look at Romans 9:3

5 A confirmation taken both from the nature of the doctrine itself, and also from that manner which he useth in teaching, for neither, saith he, did I teach those things which pleased men as these men do which put part of salvation in external things, and works of the Law, neither went I about to procure any man’s favor. And therefore the matter itself sheweth that the doctrine which I delivered unto you, is heavenly.

h He toucheth the false apostles, who had nothing but men in their mouths, and he, though he would derogate nothing from the Apostles, preacheth God and not men.

Textus Receptus Text
Geneva Study Bible Text

Galatians 1:1-5, Geneva Study Bible

Stephanus, 1550

Παῦλος ἀπόστολος οὐκ ἀπ’ ἀνθρώπων οὐδὲ δι’ ἀνθρώπου ἀλλὰ διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ θεοῦ πατρὸς τοῦ ἐγείραντος αὐτὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν καὶ οἱ σὺν ἐμοὶ πάντες ἀδελφοί ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῆς Γαλατίας χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς καὶ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ δόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν ὅπως ἐξέληται ἡμᾶς ἐκ τοῦ ἐνεστῶτος αἰῶνος πονηροῦ κατὰ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς ἡμῶν ᾧ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων ἀμήν

Geneva Bible, 1599

Paul1 an Apostle (not of mena, neither by manb, αbut by Jesus Christc, and God the Father which hath raised him from the dead.) And all the brethren which are with me, unto the Churches of Galatia: Grace be with you, and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Which2 gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver usβ from this present evil worldd according to the will of God even our Father, To whom be glory forever and ever, Amen.

α Tit 1:3
β Lu 1:74

 

Geneva Bible Notes
1 A salutation comprehending in few words, the sum of the Apostle’s doctrine, and also besides straightway from the beginning, shewing the gravity meet for the authority of an Apostle, which he had to maintain against the false apostles.

a He sheweth who is the author of the minister generally; for in this the whole ministry agreeth, that whether they be Apostles, or Shepherds, or Doctors, they are appointed of God.

b He toucheth the instrumental cause; for this is a peculiar prerogative to the Apostles, to be called immediately from Christ.

c Christ no doubt is man, but he is God also, and head of the Church, and in this respect to be exempted out of the number of men.

2 The sum of the true Gospel is this, that Christ by his only offering, saveth us being chosen out from the world, by the free decree of God the Father.

d Out of that most corrupt state which is without Christ.

Textus Receptus Text
Geneva Study Bible Text

NOT REPLACEMENT…EXPANSION! part 3

The Abrahamic Promise

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

…And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.

…And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.

…I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
(Gen 12:1-3,7; 13:14-17; 28:13-14)

The Promise Fulfilled in Christ

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. …There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3:16,28-29)

The Dispensational Challenge

Fred Klett

Dispensationalism is the most popular system of theology in Evangelical American Christianity today. Most likely, the books you read, the sermons you hear, and the “Christian” movies and music you watch and listen to are presenting their message from a dispensationalist view point. Dispensationalism arose in America as a result of the liberal/fundamentalist controversy and as a consequence of the premillennial revival of Millerism in the mid-1800s. Dispensationalists have a high view of Biblical Inspiration and interpret the Scriptures in a straight forward literal manner. Unfortunately, adherents to the dispensational system tend to slander those that hold to more traditional Christian interpretation of the Scriptures by calling them “Replacement Theologians” and by claiming that only the dispensational system presents a solid Biblical for the future of the nation of Israel.

Both of these claims were handled by Dr. Fred Klett, a Jewish Evangelist, in an article which I summarized in the first two parts of this series (part 1, part 2). Dr. Klett, in the third part of his article tackles the logical and most difficult question that arises from parts 1 and 2. How do we reconcile what the Bible teaches about Gentiles being grafted into Israel (a so-called “Spiritual Israel”) and what the Bible teaches about God’s future plans regarding the political/ethnic nation of Israel?

Commonwealth of Israel

Klett reconciles these two Biblical truths by pointing a very important concept pointed to by Paul in Ephesians 2 –

That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world …Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; (Eph 2:12, 19)

The Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) defines a commonwealth as follows:

A state; a body politic consisting of a certain number of men, united, by compact or tacit agreement, under one form of government and system of laws.

A commonwealth then, is a political body of people who, by agreement [Covenant], are united under a system of government. Klett provides the illustration of the kingdom of Great Britain during it’s heyday. Peoples from North America, Africa, and India have been subjects of the commonwealth of Great Britain. Those people submitted to British rule were not themselves English, but they were citizens of the commonwealth. Says Klett: “So it is with those who are ruled by the Jewish Messiah. Have they not submitted to the King of Israel? Are they not voluntary members of His Kingdom, under His rule and in His service? Those who believe have accepted Israel’s King and are now members of His Kingdom, known as the Commonwealth of Israel. Israel is the Kingdom of the King of Israel.

At it’s core then, are the ethnic Hebrew peoples (most of whom are in rebellion), but the enlarged Commonwealth is made up of all of those who are in submission to Jesus Christ as King, just as much as an Irishman is a citizen of the UK, though not an Englishman. Ultimately, the King will again subdue the native people of his Kingdom and engraft them back into their native Kingdom (Romans 11), but this does not void the citizenship of those that have been made fellow citizens with them, of the larger kingdom.

Christ, Our Mediator and Federal Head

So, how is it then that Gentiles come to be engrafted into the Israelite Kingdom, without first being made into Hebrews and without living in obedience to the Covenant that God at first made with the Hebrew peoples? The answer is given by the Apostle Paul in the third chapter of Galatians: “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 …For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3:16,26-29).”

Here, the Apostle explains that the promise made to Abraham finds its ultimate fulfillment in Christ. This same Jesus Christ was made under the law to fulfill all righteous requirements of the law on our behalf to merit salvation for his people. He bore all our sin and guilt in order to satisfy the law’s justice so that he could wash us and make us clean. This same Jesus is both son of Abraham and son of David. He is the fulfillment of all of God’s promises and thus the heir of God’s blessed inheritance. SO, how is it that Gentile believers take part in this inheritance? Answer: by being IN Christ!

Ephesians 2:11-14:

Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

According to the Apostle, to be without Christ is to be outside the promised blessings of Israel, but to be IN CHRIST, is to be a joint heir (Romans 4 and Galatians 4) with Christ and to take part in the blessing which our Mediator and Federal Head has attained for us on our behalf. Yes, Christ is our circumcision, He is our law obedience, He is our Sacrifice, He is the promised seed, He is the son of David – all the promises in Him are Yeah and Amen (2 Cor 1:20)!

What God has promised the nation of Israel by the Prophets of Old, He has not failed to provide – “When someone gives IMMEASURABLY MORE than that expected, the gift giver is no liar.” In order to properly understand God’s Plan for the Ages we need to center our Biblical hermeneutic squarely on the person and work of Jesus Christ, the King of Glory, the Messiah of Israel, and the Captain of our Salvation.

Let’s affirm the great expansion of blessing the Messiah has brought. He has tremendously expanded the promises to Israel, and He has greatly enlarged Israel by bringing Gentiles into His spiritual commonwealth, the Kingdom of God. This was promised to Israel by Isaiah when he said “You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy…of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end” (9:3 and 7) and “Let no foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, `The LORD will surely exclude me from his people…these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer” (56:3 and 7). We have now come to “Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God…to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn…” (Hebrews 12:22-23)

Old Testament Saints: Members of the Church

Charles Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon

The link below will take you to an article published by Charles Spurgeon in his magazine “Sword and Trowel” published in March, 1867. The article is written in response to the Dispensationalist crisis that was beginning to simmer in his day and served as a rebuttal to articles lately being published by Plymouth Brethren in their magazine “Things New and Old”. The title of the article is “Old Testament Saints: Members of the Church”, and it deals with the question of whether there is one or two peoples of God – one faith or two?

“There Be Some That Trouble You” (Gal 1:7)

LINK: Old Testament Saints: Members of the Church

A few brief notes follow:

The early gentile believers were keenly aware that in believing in Jesus Christ, they were joining themselves to the one true people of God – the Hebrew descendants of Abraham “to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises…”. It is because of this fact that new Gentile converts began dutifully submitting themselves to the Old Covenant religious law and began circumcising their children and observing the feasts and Holy Days of the Old Covenant Israelite religion.

The epistle to the Galatians was written to correct this error on the basis that the Gentile believers were engrafted into Christ, the heir of all the promises, by faith. In being in Christ, all the promises to the fathers were theirs without having to be a part of the Old Covenant. In fact, Christ fulfilled all the required righteousness of the Old Covenant on behalf of all His people.

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. …For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Gal 3:16,26-29

From Spurgeon’s perspective, there is only one people of God, because only those that are in Christ are the people of God. Although there is a “difference of dispensations”, there is one plan of Salvation that runs through them.

So far as dispensations reach they indicate degrees of knowledge, degrees of privilege, and variety in the ordinances of worship. The unity of the faith is not affected by these, as we are taught in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. The faithful of every age concur in looking for one city, and that city is identically the same with the New Jerusalem described in the Apocalypse as “a bride adorned for her husband.”

So, there is one faith and one plan of Salvation differently administered through the various dispensations of Scripture. In this one faith then, are comprised the one people of God – the true Israel, the body of Christ.

That Covenant [God’s Plan of Salvation] was declared to Noah; it was still further opened to Abraham and Isaac, it was confirmed to David; Isaiah rejoiced in its sure mercies, Jeremiah was privileged to relate many of its special provisions; and Paul avers in his epistle to the Hebrews that this is the Covenant under the provisions of which the precious blood of Christ was shed; it is the blood of the new Covenant. The priesthood of Christ is declared to be after the order of Melchizedec; it was, therefore, revealed in the days of Abraham. The word of the oath by which he was consecrated is communicated to us in the 110th Psalm, and so it was well known to David. In like manner, the gift of the Holy Spirit, though not bestowed till after the ascension of Christ, was explained by the Apostle Peter, on the day of Pentecost, to be the fulfillment of prophecy that was spoken before the Incarnation. The dispensational succession of events does not affect the Covenant. If it did, then Abraham could have no more interest in the Jewish than in the Christian economy…Had none of those believers any interest in the death of Christ, they must have died in their sins; but if they were interested in His death, why not in all the blessings that ensued?

Next, Spurgeon handles his major point of contention with the Plymouth Brethren of his day – whether the Church was in Paul’s mind in his epistles to Galatians and Romans, or whether he was only considering the justification of individual believers. The Brethren believed that the Gentiles were justified by faith like Abraham was and so Abraham served then as their moral example or moral father. As Paul did not have the church in mind, Abraham was not in his mind, a part of the same body as Gentile believers after Christ.

Spurgeon’s answer to this is to refer to Galatians 4 where Paul uses Abraham’s physical sons as an allegory for his Spiritual descendants.

22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid (allegory for law, slavery to sin), the other by a freewoman (allegory for grace in Christ). 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. 24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai (Sinaitic Covenant define Old Covenant nation of Israel), which gendereth to bondage (slavery to sin), which is Agar. 25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem (Old Covenant is subserviant to the New Covenant) which now is (New Covenant is in Effect), and is in bondage with her children (Those not trusting in Christ are in bondage to sin and subject to the curse of the law). 26 But Jerusalem which is above (New Covenant of Grace, the Church or New Covenant Israel) is free, which is the mother of us all. 27 For it is written, ‘Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate (more spiritual children born to unbelieving Gentiles than to the wife of Jehovah) hath many more children than she which hath an husband. 28 Now we (Church, Jew/Gentile believers in New Covenant), brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise (By faith members of New Covenant). 29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. 30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman (The Judaizers will not be heirs, but those that are in Christ). 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. Gal 4:22-31

Spurgeon’s point here, is that in this allegory, Paul is contrasting those that are in slavery to sin, bound by the law, and those that are in the Church – the one true faith of all ages – the body of Christ, which is the New Covenant of Grace. Spurgeon goes on to say that those that came before had just as much interest in Christ’s death as those that came after. Christ’s death served to “gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad” from all dispensations.

When Jesus heard it [the faith of the Gentile Centurion], he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matt 8:10-12