Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Galatians 3:23-29

Synopsis of Chapter 3: S. Paul proceeds to prove by five reasons that we are justified not by the law, or the works of the law, but by Christ.

i. The first proof is drawn (ver. 2) from experience. The Galatians had received the Holy Spirit and His gifts, not in circumcision, but in baptism.

ii. The second (ver. 6) from the example of Abraham, who was justified because he believed God, i.e., by faith.

iii. The third relies on the fact (ver. 10) that these under the law are under the curse threatened to all who transgress it. But Christ, being made a curse for us, has set us free from the curse of the law.

iv. The fourth is drawn (ver. 11) from Habakkuk 2:4~ “The just liveth by faith.”

v. The fifth insists (ver. 16) that it was to Abraham and his seed that the blessing of righteousness was promised. Therefore, it is by the promise, apprehended by faith, that we are justified, and not by the law. For the law, as is said in ver. 24, was given only as a school-mister to lead us to Christ, that by Him we might be justified, that we might put on Him and become all one with Him.

Commentary:

Gal 3:23  But before the faith came, we were kept under the law shut up, unto that faith which was to be revealed.

But before the faith came. Like slaves under the stern discipline of the law, we were kept as though by walls and hedges from sin, and were held, and kept in, that we might be thereby prepared, and might learn to long for the righteousness which Christ should give.

Gal 3:24  Wherefore the law was our pedagogue in Christ: that we might be justified by faith.

Wherefore the law was our pedagogue. A pædagogue, says S. Jerome, is one who looks after a boy. Among the Greeks he was a slave, whose duty it was to accompany his ward wherever he went, to keep him from loose conduct, to chastise him if need were, and in every way to form his character for good. Such was the office of the law with regard to the Hebrews.

In Christ. By a happy figure of speech, S. Paul compares the law to a pædagogue, and faith in Christ to a father, For we are born again by faith in Christ, and become sons of God, thereby passing from the state of pupilage under the law to that of men under Christ.

Gal 3:25  But after the faith is come, we are no longer under a pedagogue.

In keeping with the image this means we are no longer under the law (see 4:1-5).

Gal 3:26  For you are all the children of God, by faith in Christ Jesus.

For you are all the children of God. Both Jews, who were under the law, and Gentiles, who were not, are become, by faith in Christ, children of God. The conjunction for is causal, and indicates the reason why we are not under the law as a pædagogue, viz., because we are the sons of God. Children are like slaves, S. Paul says, in chap. iv. 1, nay, like the lower animals, in needing a pædagogue to enable them to resist the motions of sense. But those who by faith in Christ have left this state of childhood, and are become sons of God, have grown to man’s estate. It would be, therefore, absurd for them to be made subject to the law as their pædagogue, as though they were still children. This would be as absurd, says Theophylact, as for a man, when the day had dawned, to prefer a lamp to the sun. This is a rebuke to the Judaisers, which may be summarised thus: Christ is to us as a father to his grown-up sons. Why do you then go back to the pædagogy of the law? Why hold out your hand again like boys to the ferule?

By faith. Not faith alone, but by faith manifested in baptism and other acts.

Gal 3:27  For as many of you as have been baptized in Christ have put on Christ.

For as many of you as have been baptized in Christ. To be baptized into Christ is to receive His baptism as distinct from that of Moses or John Baptist. The change from the first person (we) of verse 25 to the second person (you) here denotes the change of subject from Jews to Gentiles.

Have put on Christ. You have received plenteously in your baptism the grace and gifts of Christ; you have put them round you like a garment (cf. Ps. 109:18), so that you are made partakers of the Divine nature, and therefore of the workings of God’s power, by which Christ shines in your lives. “Your daily conversation,” says Anselm, “like a splendid robe, is Christ’s holiness and Christ’s religion.”

These words may be explained in a better way, thus: As matter takes its form, the body its soul as a substantial robe to hide its nakedness and ugliness; so you in baptism have put on Christ by grace, so that the Spirit of Christ is, as it were, your form and soul; consequently you have been brought into such close union with Christ that, as He is the Son of God by nature, so are you by adoption and grace. This is the explanation of Chrysostom and Theophylact. The conjunction for shows that Paul wishes to prove that we are the sons of God by the fact that we have put on Christ, who is the Son of God by nature, and hence are one with Him, and, as it were, are Christ Himself. Cf. notes to  1Cor 12:12.

We should note from this the efficacy of baptism, which not only adorns us with graces and gifts, but with Christ Himself. What have the Protestants to say to this who make baptism to be a bare sign of righteousness already received by faith?

S. Ambrose (Serm. 90) gives some beautiful words of S. Agnes about the baptismal robe of Christ, both that which is within, and that material robe which formerly was given to adults at their baptism as a symbol of the first. “He adorned me,” she said, “with a glorious bracelet. Hie covered my hand and neck with precious stones. He put pearls in my ears, and loaded me with glistening gems. On my face He put his seal, that I might admit no lover save Him alone. He clad me in a robe of cloth of gold, and with glorious jewels did He beautify me.” And a little farther she continued: “Now have I drunken milk and honey from His mouth. Now have I been clasped in His most chaste embraces. Now has His body been united to mine, and His blood has bedewed my cheeks.” This last of course refers to the Eucharist, which used to be given to those newly baptized, that they might be wholly united to Christ. To them too used to be given milk and honey, as symbols of the sweetness of Christ, and of the law of Christ, of which they then become partakers.

Gal 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

There is neither Jew nor Greek.—i.e., in Christ. In the Church of Christ there is no distinction before God of birth, position, or sex. All, whether Jews or Greeks (= Gentiles), whether slaves or freemen, whether males or females, make one mystical body, the Church, of which the Head is Christ.

Or we may take it, and better, with S. Chrysostom, to mean that ye are one in the sense that ye have put on one form, or one soul, like the garment described above, and this not of any angel, but of Christ. This garment is the faith, charity, and holiness of Christ, and it makes you to seem like one man, to be one Christ. The Jews, therefore, have nothing of their Judaism to pride themselves on when they pass into Christ; therefore they have nothing of their own to invite you to, 0 Galatians, for you are equal sharers in Christ with them.

Gal 3:29  And if you be Christ’s, then are you the seed of Abraham, heirs according to the promise.

And if you be Christ’s. Ifyou are members of the Head, and are the mystical body of its Spirit, then, as Christ is, so are ye Abraham’s seed, and hence inheritors of the righteousness promised to Abraham. Accordingly, Ambrose reads here: “If ye are one in Christ, then are ye Abraham’s seed,” which gives the meaning very clearly.

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One Response to Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Galatians 3:23-29

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C | stjoeofoblog

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