Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Galatians 3:23

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

But before faith came - Before the Gospel was published.

We were kept under the law, shut up - Εφρουρουμεθα· We were kept as in a strong hold, συγκεκλεισμενοι, locked up, unto the faith - the religion of the Lord Jesus, which should afterwards be revealed. Here the same metaphor is used as above, and for its explanation I must refer the reader to the same place, Romans 11:32; (note).

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

But before faith came - That is, the system of salvation by faith in the Lord Jesus. Faith here denotes the Christian religion, because faith is its distinguishing characteristic.

We were kept under the law - We, who were sinners; we, who have violated the Law. It is a general truth, that before the gospel was introduced, people were under the condemning sentence of the Law.

Shut up unto the faith - Enclosed by the Law with reference to the full and glorious revelation of a system of salvation by faith. The design and tendency of the Law was to shut us up to that as the only method of salvation. All other means failed. The Law condemned every other mode, and the Law condemned all who attempted to be justified in any other way. Man, therefore, was shut up to that as his last hope; and could look only to that for any possible prospect of salvation. The word which in this verse is rendered “were kept” ἐφρουρούμεθα ephrouroumethausually means to guard or watch, as in a castle, or as prisoners are guarded; and though the word should not be pressed too far in the interpretation, yet it implies that there wasa rigid scrutiny observed; that the Law guarded them; that there was no way of escape; and that they were shut up. as prisoners under sentence of death, to the only hope, which was that of pardons.

Unto the faith … - That was the only hope. The Law condemned them, and offered no hope of escape. Their only hope was in that system which was to be revealed through the Messiah, the system which extended forgiveness on the ground of faith in his atoning blood.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The law did not teach a living, saving knowledge; but, by its rites and ceremonies, especially by its sacrifices, it pointed to Christ, that they might be justified by faith. And thus it was, as the word properly signifies, a servant, to lead to Christ, as children are led to school by servants who have the care of them, that they might be more fully taught by Him the true way of justification and salvation, which is only by faith in Christ. And the vastly greater advantage of the gospel state is shown, under which we enjoy a clearer discovery of Divine grace and mercy than the Jews of old. Most men continue shut up as in a dark dungeon, in love with their sins, being blinded and lulled asleep by Satan, through wordly pleasures, interests, and pursuits. But the awakened sinner discovers his dreadful condition. Then he feels that the mercy and grace of God form his only hope. And the terrors of the law are often used by the convincing Spirit, to show the sinner his need of Christ, to bring him to rely on his sufferings and merits, that he may be justified by faith. Then the law, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, becomes his loved rule of duty, and his standard for daily self-examination. In this use of it he learns to depend more simply on the Saviour.