Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
FAST IN THE
WALK IN THE
NOT IN THE
WORKS OF THE
1. The oldest manuscripts read, "in liberty
But as there is no Greek for 'in,' as there
is in translating in
Php 1:27; 4:1,
I prefer 'It is FOR freedom that') Christ hath
made us free (not in, or for, a state of bondage). Stand
fast, therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of
bondage" (namely, the law,
On "again," see on
2. Behold--that is, Mark what I say.
I Paul--Though you now think less of my authority, I nevertheless give
my name and personal authority as enough by itself to refute all
opposition of adversaries.
if ye be circumcised--not as ALFORD, "If
you will go on being circumcised." Rather, "If ye suffer
yourselves to be circumcised," namely, under the notion of its being
necessary to justification
Circumcision here is not regarded simply by itself (for, viewed as a
mere national rite, it was practiced for conciliation's sake by
but as the symbol of Judaism and legalism in general. If
this be necessary, then the Gospel of grace is at an end. If the latter
be the way of justification, then Judaism is in no way so.
Christ . . . profit . . . nothing--
For righteousness of works and justification by faith cannot co-exist.
"He who is circumcised [for justification] is so as fearing the law,
and he who fears, disbelieves the power of grace, and he who
disbelieves can profit nothing by that grace which he disbelieves
3. For--Greek, "Yea, more"; "Moreover."
I testify . . . to every man--as well as "unto you"
that is circumcised--that submits to be circumcised. Such a one
became a "proselyte of righteousness."
the whole law--impossible for man to keep even in part, much less
yet none can be justified by the law, unless he keep it wholly
4. Literally, "Ye have become void from Christ," that is, your
connection with Christ has become void
"Loosed from the law," where the same Greek occurs as
whosoever of you are justified--"are being justified," that is, are
endeavoring to be justified.
by the law--Greek, "IN the law," as the element
in which justification is to take place.
fallen from grace--Ye no longer "stand" in grace
Grace and legal righteousness cannot co-exist
(Ro 4:4, 5; 11:6).
Christ, by circumcision
undertook to obey all the law, and fulfil all righteousness for us:
any, therefore, that now seeks to fulfil the law for himself in any
degree for justifying righteousness, severs himself from the grace
which flows from Christ's fulfilment of it, and becomes "a debtor to do
the whole law"
The decree of the Jerusalem council had said nothing so strong as this;
it had merely decided that Gentile Christians were not bound to legal
observances. But the Galatians, while not pretending to be so
bound, imagined there was an efficacy in them to merit a higher
degree of perfection
This accounts for Paul not referring to the decree at all. He took much
higher ground. See PALEY'S Horæ
Paulinæ. The natural mind loves outward fetters, and is apt
to forge them for itself, to stand in lieu of holiness of heart.
5. For--proof of the assertion, "fallen from grace," by contrasting
with the case of legalists, the "hope" of Christians.
through the Spirit--Greek, rather, "by the Spirit": in
opposition to by the flesh
or fleshly ways of justification, as circumcision and legal ordinances.
"We" is emphatical, and contrasted with "whosoever of you would be
justified by the law"
the hope of righteousness--"We wait for the (realization of the)
hope (which is the fruit) of the righteousness (that is, justification
which comes) by (literally, 'from--out of') faith,"
Ro 5:1, 4, 5; 8:24, 25,
"Hope . . . we with patience wait for it." This
is a farther step than being "justified"; not only are we this, but
"wait for the hope" which is connected with it, and is its full
consummation. "Righteousness," in the sense of justification, is by the
believer once for all already attained: but the consummation of it in
future perfection above is the object of hope to be waited
for: "the crown of righteousness laid up"
"the hope laid up for you in heaven"
6. For--confirming the truth that it is "by faith"
in Jesus Christ--Greek, "in Christ Jesus." In union with Christ
(the ANOINTED Saviour), that is, Jesus of Nazareth.
nor uncircumcision--This is levelled against those who, being not
legalists, or Judaizers, think themselves Christians on this ground
faith which worketh by love--Greek, "working by love." This
corresponds to "a new creature"
as its definition. Thus in
Ga 5:5, 6,
we have the three, "faith," "hope," and "love." The Greek
expresses, "Which effectually worketh"; which exhibits its
energy by love (so
Love is not joined with faith in justifying, but is the
principle of the works which follow after justification by faith. Let
not legalists, upholding circumcision, think that the essence of the
law is set at naught by the doctrine of justification by faith only.
Nay, "all the law is fulfilled in one word--love," which is the
principle on which "faith worketh"
Let them, therefore, seek this "faith," which will enable them truly to
fulfil the law. Again, let not those who pride themselves on
uncircumcision think that, because the law does not justify, they are
free to walk after "the flesh"
Let them, then, seek that "love" which is inseparable from true faith
(Jas 2:8, 12-22).
Love is utterly opposed to the enmities which prevailed among the
(Ga 5:15, 20).
is a Spirit of "faith" and "love" (compare
7. Translate, "Ye were running well" in the Gospel race
Php 3:13, 14).
who, &c.--none whom you ought to have listened to
[BENGEL]: alluding to the Judaizers (compare
hinder--The Greek means, literally, "hinder by breaking up a
not obey the truth--not submit yourselves to the true Gospel way of
8. This persuasion--Greek, "The persuasion," namely, to
which you are yielding. There is a play on words in the original, the
Greek for persuasion being akin to "obey"
This persuasion which ye have obeyed.
cometh not of--that is "from." Does not emanate from Him, but from
that calleth you--
The calling is the rule of the whole race [BENGEL].
9. A little leaven--the false teaching of the Judaizers. A small
portion of legalism, if it be mixed with the Gospel, corrupts its
purity. To add legal ordinances and works in the least degree to
justification by faith, is to undermine "the whole." So "leaven" is used
of false doctrine
it means the corrupting influence of one bad person; so BENGEL understands it here to refer to the person
(Ga 5:7, 8, 10)
who misled them.
"One sinner destroyeth much good"
I prefer to refer it to false doctrine, answering to
10. Greek, "I (emphatical: 'I on my part') have
confidence in the Lord with regard to you
that ye will be none otherwise minded" (than what by this Epistle I
desire you to be,
but he that troubleth you--
1Ki 18:17, 18).
Some one, probably, was prominent among the seducers, though the
denunciation applies to them all
(Ga 1:7; 4:17).
shall bear--as a heavy burden.
his--his due and inevitable judgment from God. Paul
distinguishes the case of the seduced, who were misled through
thoughtlessness, and who, now that they are set right by him, he
confidently hopes, in God's goodness, will return to the right way,
from that of the seducer who is doomed to judgment.
whosoever he be--whether great
11. Translate, "If I am still preaching (as I did before conversion)
circumcision, why am I still persecuted?" The Judaizing troubler of the
Galatians had said, "Paul himself preaches circumcision," as is shown by
his having circumcised Timothy
Ac 20:6; 21:24).
Paul replies by anticipation of their objection, As regards myself, the
fact that I am still persecuted by the Jews shows plainly that I do
not preach circumcision; for it is just because I preach Christ
crucified, and not the Mosaic law, as the sole ground of justification,
that they persecute me. If for conciliation he lived as a Jew among the
Jews, it was in accordance with his principle enunciated
(1Co 7:18, 20; 9:20).
Circumcision, or uncircumcision, are things indifferent in themselves:
their lawfulness or unlawfulness depends on the animus of him
who uses them. The Gentile Galatians' animus in circumcision could only
be their supposition that it influenced favorably their standing before
God. Paul's living as a Gentile among Gentiles, plainly showed that, if
he lived as a Jew among Jews, it was not that he thought it meritorious
before God, but as a matter indifferent, wherein he might lawfully
conform as a Jew by birth to those with whom he was, in order to
put no needless stumbling-block to the Gospel in the way of his
then--Presuming that I did so, "then," in that case, "the offense of
occasioned to the Jews by) the cross has become done away." Thus the
Jews' accusation against Stephen was not that he preached Christ
crucified, but that "he spake blasphemous words against this holy place
and the law." They would, in some measure, have borne the
former, if he had mixed with it justification in part by circumcision
and the law, and if he had, through the medium of Christianity, brought
converts to Judaism. But if justification in any degree depended on
legal ordinances, Christ's crucifixion in that degree was unnecessary,
and could profit nothing
(Ga 5:2, 4).
Worldly Wiseman, of the town of Carnal Policy, turns Christian out of
the narrow way of the Cross, to the house of Legality. But the way to
it was up a mountain, which, as Christian advanced, threatened to fall
on him and crush him, amidst flashes of lightning from the mountain
[BUNYAN, Pilgrim's Progress]
12. they . . . which trouble you--Translate, as the
Greek is different from
"they who are unsettling you."
were even cut off--even as they desire your foreskin to be
cut off and cast away by circumcision, so would that
they were even cut off from your communion, being worthless as a
(Ga 1:7, 8;
The fathers, JEROME, AMBROSE,
AUGUSTINE, and CHRYSOSTOM,
explain it, "Would that they would even cut themselves off," that is,
cut off not merely the foreskin, but the whole member: if
circumcision be not enough for them, then let them have
excision also; an outburst hardly suitable to the gravity of an
Ga 5:9, 10
plainly point to excommunication as the judgment threatened
against the troublers: and danger of the bad "leaven" spreading, as the
reason for it.
13. The "ye" is emphatical, from its position in the Greek, "Ye
brethren"; as opposed to those legalists "who trouble you."
unto liberty--The Greek expresses, "on a footing of liberty."
The state or condition in which ye have been called to
salvation, is one of liberty. Gospel liberty consists in three things,
freedom from the Mosaic yoke, from sin, and from slavish fear.
only, &c.--Translate, "Only turn not your liberty into an
occasion for the flesh." Do not give the flesh the handle or pretext
"occasion") for its indulgence which it eagerly seeks for; do not let
it make Christian "liberty" its pretext for indulgence
(Ga 5:16, 17;
but by love serve one another--Greek, "Be servants (be in
bondage) to one another." If ye must be servants, then be
servants to one another in love. While free as to legalism, be
bound by Love (the article in the Greek personifies love
in the abstract) to serve one another
Here he hints at their unloving strifes springing out of lust of power.
"For the lust of power is the mother of heresies" [CHRYSOSTOM].
14. all the law--Greek, "the whole law," namely, the Mosaic law.
Love to God is presupposed as the root from which
love to our neighbor springs; and it is in this tense the latter
precept (so "word" means here) is said to be the fulfilling of
"all the law"
Love is "the law of Christ"
Mt 7:12; 22:39, 40;
Ro 13:9, 10).
is fulfilled--Not as received text "is being fulfilled," but as the
oldest manuscripts read, "has been fulfilled"; and so "receives its full
perfection," as rudimentary teachings are fulfilled by the more perfect
doctrine. The law only united Israelites together: the Gospel unites all
men, and that in relation to God [GROTIUS].
15. bite--backbite the character.
devour--the substance by injuring, extortion, &c.
consumed, &c.--Strength of soul, health of body, character, and
resources, are all consumed by broils [BENGEL].
16. This I say then--Repeating in other words, and explaining the
What I mean is this."
Walk in the Spirit--Greek, "By (the rule of) the (Holy) Spirit."
Ga 5:16-18, 22, 25;
with Ro 7:22; 8:11.
The best way to keep tares out of a bushel is to fill it with wheat.
the flesh--the natural man, out of which flow the evils specified
The spirit and the flesh mutually exclude one another. It is promised,
not that we should have no evil lusts, but that we should "not
fulfil" them. If the spirit that is in us can be at ease under
sin, it is not a spirit that comes from the Holy Spirit. The gentle
dove trembles at the sight even of a hawk's feather.
17. For--the reason why walking by the Spirit will exclude fulfilling
the lusts of the flesh, namely, their mutual contrariety.
the Spirit--not "lusteth," but "tendeth (or some such word is to be
supplied) against the flesh."
so that ye cannot do the things that ye would--The Spirit
strives against the flesh and its evil influence; the flesh against the
Spirit and His good influence, so that neither the one nor the other
can be fully carried out into action. "But"
where "the Spirit" prevails, the issue of the struggle no longer
[BENGEL]. The Greek is, "that ye may not do
the things that ye would." "The flesh and Spirit are contrary one to
the other," so that you must distinguish what proceeds from the
Spirit, and what from the flesh; and you must not fulfil what you
desire according to the carnal self, but what the Spirit within you
desires [NEANDER]. But the antithesis of
("But," &c.), where the conflict is decided, shows, I think,
contemplates the inability both for fully accomplishing the good we
"would," owing to the opposition of the flesh, and for doing the
evil our flesh would desire, owing to the opposition of the
Spirit in the awakened man (such as the Galatians are assumed to
be), until we yield ourselves wholly by the Spirit to "walk by the
(Ga 5:16, 18).
18. "If ye are led (give yourselves up to be led) by (Greek) the Spirit, ye are not under the law." For ye are not working
the works of the flesh
(Ga 5:16, 19-21)
which bring one "under the law"
(Ro 8:2, 14).
The "Spirit makes free from the law of sin and death"
The law is made for a fleshly man, and for the works of the flesh
"not for a righteous man"
(Ro 6:14, 15).
by showing the contrariety between the works of the flesh and the fruit
of the Spirit.
manifest--The hidden fleshly principle betrays itself palpably
by its works, so that these are not hard to discover, and leave no doubt
that they come not from the Spirit.
which are these--Greek, "such as," for instance.
Adultery--omitted in the oldest manuscripts.
lasciviousness--rather, "wantonness" petulance, capricious insolence;
it may display itself in "lasciviousness," but not necessarily or
(Mr 7:21, 22,
where it is not associated with fleshly lusts) [TRENCH]. "Works" (in the plural) are attributed to the
"flesh," because they are divided, and often at variance with one
another, and even when taken each one by itself, betray their fleshly
origin. But the "fruit of the Spirit"
is singular, because, however manifold the results, they form one
harmonious whole. The results of the flesh are not dignified by the
name "fruit"; they are but works
(Eph 5:9, 11).
He enumerates those fleshly "works" (committed against our neighbor,
against God, and against ourselves) to which the Galatians were most
prone (the Celts have always been prone to disputations and internal
strifes): and those manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit
most needed by them
(Ga 5:13, 15).
This passage shows that "the flesh" does not mean merely
sensuality, as opposed to spirituality: for "divisions"
in the catalogue here do not flow from sensuality. The identification
of "the natural (Greek, 'animal-souled') man," with the
"carnal" or fleshly man
shows that "the flesh" expresses human nature as estranged from
God. TRENCH observes, as a proof of our fallen
state, how much richer is every vocabulary in words for sins, than in
those for graces. Paul enumerates seventeen "works of the
flesh," only nine manifestations of "the fruit of the Spirit"
20. witchcraft--sorcery; prevalent in Asia
variance--Greek, "strife"; singular in the oldest manuscripts.
emulations--in the oldest manuscripts, singular--"emulation," or
rather, "jealousy"; for the sake of one's own advantage. "Envyings"
are even without advantage to the person himself
wrath--Greek, plural, "passionate outbreaks" [ALFORD].
strife--rather as Greek, "factions," "cabals"; derived from a
Greek root, meaning "a worker for hire": hence,
unworthy means for compassing ends, factious practices.
seditions--"dissensions," as to secular matters.
heresies--as to sacred things (see on
Self-constituted parties; from a Greek root, to
choose. A schism is a more recent split in a congregation
from a difference of opinion. Heresy is a schism become
inveterate [AUGUSTINE, Con. Crescon. Don.,
21. tell . . . before--namely, before the event.
I . . . told you in time past--when I was with you.
you--who, though maintaining justification by the law, are careless
about keeping the law
not inherit . . . kingdom of
(1Co 6:9, 10;
22. love--the leader of the band of graces
gentleness--Greek, "benignity," conciliatory to others;
whereas "goodness," though ready to do good, has not such
suavity of manner
ALFORD translates, "kindness."
faith--"faithfulness"; opposed to "heresies"
ALFORD refers to
"Believeth all things": faith in the widest sense, toward God
and man. "Trustfulness" [CONYBEARE and HOWSON].
23. temperance--The Greek root implies self-restraint as to
one's desires and lusts.
against such--not persons, but things, as in
"Not under the law"
(1Ti 1:9, 10).
The law itself commands love
so far is it from being "against such."
24. The oldest manuscripts read, "They that are of Christ
Jesus"; they that belong to Christ Jesus; being "led by (His) Spirit"
have crucified the flesh--They nailed it to the cross once for all
when they became Christ's, on believing and being baptized
(Ro 6:3, 4):
they keep it now in a state of crucifixion
so that the Spirit can produce in them, comparatively uninterrupted by
it, "the fruit of the Spirit"
"Man, by faith, is dead to the former standing point of a sinful life,
and rises to a new life
of communion with Christ
The act by which they have crucified the flesh with its lust, is
already accomplished ideally in principle. But the practice, or outward
conformation of the life, must harmonize with the tendency given to the
[NEANDER]. We are to be executioners, dealing
cruelly with the body of sin, which has caused the acting of all
cruelties on Christ's body.
with the affections--Translate, "with its passions." Thus they
are dead to the law's condemning power, which is only for the fleshly,
and their lusts
25. in . . . in--rather, as Greek, "If we live
BY the Spirit, let us also walk
(Ga 5:16; 6:16)
BY the Spirit." Let our life in practice
correspond to the ideal inner principle of our spiritual life, namely,
our standing by faith as dead to, and severed from, sin, and the
condemnation of the law. "Life by (or 'in') the Spirit" is not an
occasional influence of the Spirit, but an abiding state, wherein we
are continually alive, though sometimes sleeping and inactive.
26. Greek, "Let us not BECOME."
While not asserting that the Galatians are "vainglorious" now,
he says they are liable to become so.
provoking one another--an effect of "vaingloriousness" on the
stronger: as "envying" is its effect on the weaker. A danger common
both to the orthodox and Judaizing Galatians.