Charles Simeon Commentary - Galatians 3:1 - 3:1

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Galatians 3:1 - 3:1

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Gal_3:1. O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

THE method of a sinner’s justification is plainly revealed in the Gospel: nor is any doctrine more worthy of attention. An error with respect to many other points may consist with our salvation, but to err in this, is to destroy all hope of acceptance. Hence St. Paul devotes even an angel from heaven to a curse, if it could be supposed that one should be found who would introduce a gospel different from that which he himself had preached. Unhappily, however, the Galatians had been misled. The Apostle writes this epistle in order to reclaim them: he tells them that he had reproved even Peter himself, and that, too, before the whole Church at Antioch, for dissembling the truth [Note: Gal_2:13-14.]. He then proceeds to reprove their declension also.

We shall consider,

I.       Wherein their disobedience to the truth consisted—

The Galatians had formerly “received the truth in the love of it”—

[They had entertained the highest respect for him who first evangelized them [Note: Gal_4:14.]; they had been knit to him with the most cordial affection [Note: Gal_4:15.]; they had found much blessedness by means of the Gospel [Note: Gal_4:15]; they had received miraculous powers in confirmation of the word [Note: Gal_3:2.]; they had been enabled to adorn their profession by a suitable life and conversation [Note: Gal_5:7.]; they had even endured many sufferings for their attachment to the truth [Note: Gal_3:4.].]

But they had lately imbibed the doctrines of some Judaizing teachers—

[Many of the Jewish converts were still zealous for the law of Moses: hence they laboured to make proselytes whereever they came. Many of the Galatian churches were induced to embrace their doctrines: hence, though Gentiles originally, they put themselves under the yoke of the Jewish law [Note: Gal_4:8-10.].]

Thus they, in fact, “disobeyed and renounced the truth” itself—

[They had been taught to expect justification by faith in Christ [Note: Gal_2:16], but now they superadded an obedience to the law as a joint ground of hope: by this they declared that faith in Christ was insufficient for their justification. They did not indeed intend by this to reject Christ entirely:; but the Apostle tells them repeatedly that God considered their conduct as equivalent to an utter rejection of the Gospel [Note: Gal_2:21; Gal_5:2-4.]: and hence he warns them, that they were turned altogether to “another Gospel [Note: Gal_1:6.].”]

Their defection therefore involved them in the deepest guilt; as will appear more fully, if we consider,

II.      The particular aggravation with which it was attended—

St. Paul himself had preached among them in a most lively and affecting manner—

[Wherever he went, his constant subject was Christ crucified [Note: 1Co_2:2.]: he fully opened to his hearers the nature and ends of Christ’s death: he always declared the efficacy of it as an atonement for sin: he earnestly exhorted all to trust in it for their acceptance with God: he had dwelt so much, and in so affecting a manner, on this subject, that the crucifixion of Christ might be said to have been depicted, or even exhibited before their eyes.]

This was a great aggravation of their guilt in departing from the faith—

[Had they heard less of Christ, they had been less culpable; had they heard of him in a less affecting manner, they had not been without a plea; had they seen no particular effects flowing from the Apostle’s preaching, they might have bad some excuse; had the subserviency of the law to the Gospel never been opened to them, their defection from the truth might have been accounted for: but to renounce the truth, after it had been set forth with such energy, and attended with such effects, was extreme folly and wickedness: their conduct was no less than a crucifying of Christ afresh [Note: Heb_6:6.].]

What animadversion their disobedience merited we may see in,

III.     The reproof which the Apostle gave them on account of it—

St. Paul ascribes their declension to the subtlety of their false teachers—

[Sin has an astonishingly fascinating power [Note: This seems the exact import of the original.]. Error, whether in faith or practice, soon insinuates itself into our hearts. Whenever people are drawn from the truth, they are first beguiled by the specious appearances of false principles. Apostates therefore may be justly considered as deluded creatures; and if at any time they be recovered, they wonder at themselves how they ever could have been so “bewitched,” so blinded, so befooled.]

Nevertheless he deservedly censures their compliance with them“

[He was far from indulging a contemptuous or vindictive spirit, yet he judged it his duty to “rebuke them sharply:” he therefore spoke of their conduct with holy indignation: he expressed his wonder that they could be so soon turned from the truth [Note: Gal_1:6.]: he seems at a loss to represent their folly in terms sufficiently humiliating; yet his question evidently imports also a mixture of pity: he felt deeply in his soul for their spiritual welfare [Note: Gal_4:19.]; he therefore expostulated with them in order to reclaim them.]


1.       How great is the evil and danger of self-righteousness!

[The Galatians intended to honour God’s own institutions; but by laying an undue stress upon them they endangered their own salvation. How careful then should we be not to trust in any righteousness of our own! Let us remember in what light our own righteousness should be viewed [Note: Isa_64:6.]—let us bear in mind our Saviour’s direction [Note: Luk_17:10.]—let us cultivate the disposition of the great Apostle [Note: Php_3:9.]—]

2.       What need have even the most eminent Christians to watch against apostasy!

[The attainments of the Galatians seemed to be very eminent: yet they were soon seduced from the simplicity of the Gospel. Who then are we, that we should be over confident? Our dearest friends may well regard us as Paul did the Christians at Corinth [Note: 2Co_11:3.]. Let us attend then to the advice which he gives us [Note: 1Co_10:12.]—nor let us despise that salutary admonition of St. Peter [Note: 2Pe_3:17.]—]

3.       What cause of thankfulness have they who are kept steadfast in the truth!

[They who know their own instability will wonder that they are kept at all. Surely such will adopt the grateful acknowledgment of David [Note: Psa_26:12.]—and these are the persons in whom that declaration shall be verified [Note: 1Pe_1:5.]—We conclude with that suitable doxology [Note: Jude, ver. 24, 25.]—]