The  Commentary
on the Book of Galatians

By Brother Given O. Blakely.



Gal 3:21 "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." (Gal 3:21-22)



In expounding the means by which men are "made righteous," It is necessary for Paul to bring up the matter of the Law. He will not speak loosely about it, nor will he allow for man to find a conscience-easing excuse for his sinful condition. He will rather confirm that God is not capable of saying things that are in conflict with one another - even though men often argue that this is the case. Paul takes great care when addressing the matter of the Law. He will not blame man's sinful condition on the Law, for the Law made known that condition, and was not the cause of it. That is, man was not basically good until the Law came, with the Law unreasonably demanding more than man could give. It rather confirmed the absolute need of a Savior - for all men. It is man's nature that is fundamentally flawed. This should be abundantly evident in the absolute requirement that man "must be born again" (John 3:7). If there was the slightest amount of good in man, a new birth would not be required. All that would be necessary is to nurture that good, and cause it to dominate. However, such a work was not possible, for nothing could be found in the human nature that could form the basis for such a work. It was not a matter of restoring men, but of re-creating them. Those with a penchant for Law, however, do not see this clearly. They imagine that they can "DO" enough to merit the favor of God. In such a view, all man needs is some additional teaching - more extensive instruction - and he will be able to do the right thing. Thus the Bible is often viewed as a roadmap to heaven, or a rule-book. It is imagined that man has the natural capacity to make himself acceptable to God. However, if such a thing was remotely possible, there would have been no 0need for "the promises" of a new covenant, a new heart, a new spirit, and newness of life. Now Paul will confirm that both the Law and the Gospel are within the framework of a single eternal purpose. The Law was not a trial to see if men were up to the challenge of being just.


Gal 3:21a "Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid . . ." Other versions read, "contrary to," NASB "opposed to," NIV and "contradict." GWN

THE LAW. This is the Law as a covenant, and refers specifically to the Ten Commandments, and in general to all the ordinances that were based upon it. The commandments themselves are referred to as "the words of the covenant" (Ex 34:28). The words were unyielding commandments, with no provision for error. "Ye shall therefore keep My statutes, and My judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD" (Lev 18:5). This is "the Law" that was "given by Moses" (John 1:17). Rather than justifying men - or identifying who was received by God - "by the Law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom 3;20). The Law was not enacted, or put into motion, in order to identify the righteous person. As it is written, "Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers" (1 Tim 1:9).

The Law was a standard of measurement for a godless person, not a godly one. However, if it contained commandments that were designed to make men good, this could not have been said of it. Technically, the point was not that men could not keep the Law, but that they DID NOT do so - and there is a vast difference between those two concepts. As for the detailed commandments themselves, it is written, "the commandment [is] holy and just and good" (Rom 7:12). The Amplified Bible reads, "and [each] commandment is holy, and just, and good." The Law was not unfair in its relentless and unwavering demands, nor was it sympathetic toward the transgressor. Solemnly it announced, "the soul that sinneth, it shall die"(Ezek 18:4,20). Even if a man managed to keep all of the commandments, it would not gain an ounce of merit. As Jesus put it, "So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do" (Luke 17:10).

Even though men could not perfectly keep the Law, the Law was not given to convince them of that. It was rather given to convince them they had sinned, and were guilty before God. There existed a deep and unremovable stain on their persons, and they needed to know it. The Holy Spirit takes this ministry and narrows it down to a single transgression, convicting those outside of Christ of its reality: "And when He [the Comforter, or Holy Spirit] is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on Me" (John 16:8-9). He shows them what they ARE, not merely what they have done.

So far as the demands of the Law are concern, the commandments were things that had to be done. They were not objectives to be reached by a steady effort. They did not offer a righteousness that could be attained. They were not designed to make men better, or to relieve them of guilt. When the Law brought the knowledge of sin, it was not a mere academic definition that was provided. It rather revealed an existing situation that God could not and would not receive.

THE PROMISES OF GOD. The question here propounded is whether or not the Law was "against the promises of God," which announced a blessing, not a cursing. Did the Law present an alternative means of obtaining the approval and blessing of God - a way that contradicted the promise of blessing vicariously, or because of someone other than the one being justified before God? Was the Law a competing system, which, if kept, would obviate the need for "the promises"? Did it set before men another possibility, whether in mere theory or in fact? Is that why God gave the Law? If it is, then the Law is a competing system that works against the promises of God. In such a circumstance, it would be a system that is intended to be the means of obtaining life. If men did not happen to measure up to it - well, there was alternative #2. However, that was not the point of the Law. It was not giving man a chance to become righteous, but clearly identifying the fact that he was not righteous. Furthermore, an unrighteous condition cannot be altered by those who are so described. That would be equivalent to a leopard changing its spots (Jer 13:23). As Jeremiah continued, "then may ye also do good that are accustomed to doing evil." An unrighteous person needs to be born again, not be reformed!

GOD FORBID. Other versions read, "in no way," BBE "Heaven forbid," CJB "Absolutely not," CSB "Far be the thought," DARBY "Certainly not," ESV "That's unthinkable," GWN "Of course not," NAB and "may it never be." NAU

The word translated "God forbid" is, grammatically, "a particle of negation." It emphatically denies the thing stated, "absolutely, categorically." It "denies the thought of the thing." THAYER There is no English expression that precisely depicts this condition. It expresses that the thought introduced is simply not allowable, and no provision has been made to even think in such a manner. In my judgment, the words "God forbid" represent the thought very well. Given what He has revealed about the Law, the Gospel, and being justified in His sight, He has, in fact, made no allowance to even think that the Law is against the promises of God. To think in such a manner is to abandon the belief of Divine testimony - something that is unthinkable.


3:21 " . . . for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law."

The fact that holy men of God have spoken as they were moved by the Holy Spirit confirms that we are under obligation to understand what is said. Something that has been revealed must be understood, else it is no revelation at all. Paul reasons with us with this in mind. In another place, he states, "But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant" (1 Cor 14:38). Other versions read, "But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized," NASB "If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored." NIV "Anyone who does not recognize this is not to be recognized." NRSV and "But if anyone disregards or does not recognize [that it is a command of the Lord], he is disregarded and not recognized [he is one whom God knows not]." AMPLIFIED That is preceded by the arresting words, "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 Cor 14:37). The gravity of the above words is at once seen. A failure to be able to agree with the Word of the Lord can be an indication that the person has been rejected by God. That has alarming implications, yet is to be embraced without equivocation/

IF THERE HAD BEEN A LAW GIVEN. Every recovery system known to man is based upon Law - i.e. a set of rules or directives that are designed to correct the flawed human condition. Now Paul states with great pungency the fact that human nature cannot be changed in this manner. Character - character that is accepted by God - cannot be created by law, or a set of commandments - even if the commandments are holy, just, and good, and have been given by God!

This is any law given at any time. The fact that God would be the fundamental Giver means that the statement that follows also applies to any law given by any man, for no man is above God in rights and privileges. That ought to be apparent.

WHICH COULD HAVE GIVEN LIFE. Other versions read, "able to impart life," NASB "could make alive," NRSV "the power to give life," CJB "able to quicken," DARBY "give us new life," NLT and "could confer [spiritual] life." AMPLIFIED

This shines the spotlight on the human condition. Apart from Christ, men are "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph 2:1). That is, they are dead toward God - incapable of hearing or responding to Him. They are to God what a dead body is to the environment of the natural world. They do not have the capacity to recognize God, and if they did, they, like Adam, would run from Him instead of to Him. Further, they cannot make themselves alive anymore than Lazarus could. Life has to be given to them from someone who is alive, and has the power to confer life.

The correction of outward behavior cannot awaken the soul. Carefully living by a set of rules cannot confer life upon one who is dead toward God. A new set of habits cannot sensitize the soul, to God. It cannot confer the ability to walk in the light, fellowship with Christ, or have confidence before God. No law, however lofty and logically sound it is, can do such things.

THEN RIGHTEOUSNESS SHOULD HAVE BEEN BY THE LAW. If it was possible for one single person, other than Christ, to pass from death unto life by Law, then that is precisely how it would have been done. If rule-keeping could change the character of just one person, then rules would have been the means by which every person would be changed. If all man required was information about how he should live, then that is all he would have received from God.

Salvation by grace through face is not one of several alternatives. Having righteousness imputed to us by means of faith is not one of several ways to become righteous. The way of salvation that has been revealed is not an optional choice. It is not that God could have selected another way to make men righteous - another way to raise them from death in trespasses and sins. This is why it is so wrong to speculate about what it takes to save a man. It is what makes "another gospel" such a violation of the will of God. It is also what makes the presentation of purported simple ways of being saved such a transgression. Man's condition by nature is certainly not simplistic, and it cannot be resolved in a oversimplified manner.

By nature man is dead IN sin, and dead TOWARD God (John 5:25; Eph 2:1,5). He is incapable of comprehending the things of God, which appear foolish to him (1 Cor 2:14). He is under the dominion of sin (Rom 6:17), as well as the wicked one himself, the devil, who works in him (Eph 2:2). Now, what law can be given to correct those conditions - either theoretically or in reality? And if a law could be found that could do those things, what would have been the need for Christ, His death, His blood, His resurrection, or His enthronement in glory?

The fact is, there is no such Law, nor can there ever be. We know this is the case because that is not the way God chose to justify men, making them clean and useable in His sight. This is not conjecture, but is strongly affirmed by the Holy Spirit who moved Paul to write, "For if a Law had been given which could confer [spiritual] life, then righteousness and right standing with God would certainly have come by Law." AMPLIFIED That is not, however, how righteousness came, and that is what made the defection of the Galatians so serious.


3:22 "But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe."

BUT. Coming from the Greek word avlla., and as used here, this word means "an opposition to," THAYER "indicating contrast, difference, or limitation," FRIBERG and "a marker of more emphatic contrast (as compared - but, instead, on the contrary." LOWA-NIDA The meaning is that the real case contradicts the theoretical one because it is essentially different, and is the only acceptable way to think. I say this because we are living in a time when there are too many concessions made because of contradicting ideas. In the salivation of God, whatever contradicts the truth is to be rejected the instant that it is seen. Deviate ways of thought are not allowed.

THE SCRIPTURE HATH CONCLUDED. Other versions read, "the Scripture hath confined," NKJV "hath shut up," NASB "declares," NIV "has imprisoned," NRSV "hath consigned," RSV "hath enclosed," MRD and "shut up and imprisoned." AMPLIFIED

Behold what power is assigned to the Scriptures - the inspired writings! This makes those who teach the Scriptures are flawed foolish and accountable to God. For Scripture cannot consign anyone to any state if they are questionable, or their message is unclear, or has been corrupted.

ALL ARE UNDER SIN. And what has the Scripture concluded? It is this, "that the whole world is a prisoner of sin," NIV and "that all things" are "under the power of sin" NRSV - "shut up and imprisoned by sin."AMPLIFIED Of themselves, the people cannot come out of this state. They are, so to speak, locked in it. Unless there is a Deliverer, there is no hope for them. There is no law that can release them. The wisdom of men is impotent in this case, and the people themselves are utterly helpless.

This is the context in which the Gospel is declared: one in which men are hopelessly bound by iniquity and confined to a state of sin. The social or domestic state of men is not really the issue, and Christ should not be presented as though that was the case. This is a Divine determination that cannot be neutralized or changed independently of Jesus Christ, who is the promised Seed through whom the whole world will be blessed.

IN ORDER THAT THE PROMISE. This is why "the Scripture hath concluded all under sin," for what the Scripture says is exactly what God says. That is precisely why as soon as men add to or take from the Scripture, it ceases to be the Word of God, for the Word of God is "made of none effect through your tradition" (Mark 7:13), and "the Word of God IS quick and powerful" (Heb 4:12). There is always a purpose to that Word, and it is always powerful to effect that purpose. Here is why the Scriptures have confined all natural men to prisoners of sin.

THAT THE PROMISE MIGHT BE GIVEN. The promise is the point - the promise of blessing that was given to Abraham. This promise is the New Covenant in embryo. It is what God has pledged to do through Jesus Christ. In its essence, it is men being "made righteous" (Rom 5:19), having the righteousness of God imputed to them (Rom 4:22-24). However, in order to do it, all men must be seen properly. This is not a salvation for some men, or for a segment of the human race. From the provisional point of view, the salvation of God extends as far as the wake of sin extended - and that is to all men throughout the whole world. If all men are not confined to sin, there really is no need for the promise of extricated them from it.

Romans 3:22-23 states much the same thing: "Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:22-23). What is more, men are confined to that state until they are released by the Deliverer. Try as they may, they cannot release themselves. No men or group of men can come up with an escape strategy from this condition - and if anyone says they have done so, they have simply lied.

BY FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST. The appointed means of receiving this promise is "faith" - faith that comes from Christ (Eph 6:23), and faith that is in Christ (Rom 5:1; Phil 3:9). This is a faith that "comes" to men (Rom 10:17; Gal 3:23), and men are locked in sin until it does. It comes by means of hearing the message of Christ, which means the Galatians had abandoned.

TO ALL THEM THAT BELIEVE. The Amplified Bible reads, "to [all] those who believe [who adhere to and trust in and rely on Him]." We are told that it is "given" to us "to believe" (Phil 1:29), else we would have remained where the Scripture had confined us. It is not to some who have believed, but to "all them that believe." The believing has to do with the Gospel, which thoroughly addresses the matter of salvation. One of the characteristics of false gospels is that they are not thorough. They do not give a proper perspective of the purpose of God, the state of men, the accomplishments of Jesus, the magnitude of sin, or the impotence of human works. They have a certain damning influence among men, moving them to remove from the One who called them into the grace of Christ, and leading them to place their faith and trust in something other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that circumstance, God will not work through such gospels, and He will curse both those who declare them and those who believe them.