Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day and support a great cause!
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and Colleges

Galatians 5

Verses 1-99

Chapters 5, 6. (Third Division of the Epistle.)

Practical Exhortations based on the preceding Doctrinal Teaching

5:1 12 . Exhortation to stand fast in the Liberty of the Gospel

1 . Many editors place this verse at the end of ch. 4, connecting it immediately with v . 31 of that chapter; ‘we are not children of a bondwoman, but of her who is free with that freedom wherewith Christ hath emancipated us. Stand fast therefore and be not again entangled with a yoke of bondage’.

But the received arrangement of the chapters is better. Chapter 4 is didactic; chapter 5 is hortatory, and therefore properly begins with the injunction ‘stand fast’.

It is however interesting to note that in the original the last word of ch. 4 is ‘free’, and ‘the freedom’ are the opening words of ch. 5. We have a similar instance of the repetition of a word in juxtaposition in Romans 15:12 , Romans 15:13 , ‘In Him shall the Gentiles hope . Now the God of hope fill you … that ye may abound in hope ’.

Here we may render, In the freedom then wherewith Christ made us free stand fast &c. The freedom thus bestowed is spiritual liberty which is quite independent of outward circumstances. St Paul in chains, a prisoner in Rome, exulted in it. Nero on his throne, the master of the world, with thirty legions at his back, was the miserable slave of his lusts. Luther beautifully remarks: ‘Let us learn to count this our freedom most noble, exalted, and precious, which no emperor, no prophet nor patriarch, no angel from heaven, but Christ, God’s Son, hath obtained for us; not that He might relieve us from a bodily and temporal subjection, but from a spiritual and eternal imprisonment of the cruelest tyrants, namely the law, sin, death, the Devil’.

Stand fast ] perhaps, ‘stand upright’, not bowing your neck to the yoke of legal observances.

again ] They who had escaped from the thraldom of heathenism were not to submit to the slavery of Judaism. They who had once tasted freedom in Christ were not to be again entangled in the bondage of the law.

2 . St Paul here speaks with the Apostolic authority which he had vindicated at the opening of the Epistle, but which he has hitherto kept in abeyance while using argument, and remonstrance, and entreaty.

if ye be circumcised ] St Paul and the other Apostles, and indeed every convert from Judaism, were circumcised. It is clear therefore that this expression (repeated in v . 3) must mean not the fact of being circumcised , but the deliberate submission of Gentiles to the rite by which proselytes were admitted to the Jewish Church, as if it were necessary to salvation. A better rendering would be, if ye submit to be circumcised . The act of such submission implied that a man sought salvation in and by the law, of which circumcision is the seal. But to such a man Christ and His righteousness bring no advantage. ‘He who submits to circumcision does so because he stands in fear of the law, and he who so stands in fear distrusts the power of grace, and he who distrusts gains no advantage from that which is so distrusted’. Chrys.

St Paul, though as ‘touching the righteousness which is in the law,’ he was found blameless before his conversion, yet turned his back on it all that he might win Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of his own, even that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. Philippians 3:6-9 .

3 . By receiving circumcision a man voluntarily put himself under the conditions of the law, which were, ‘fulfil perfectly and live: fail and die’. The tremendous responsibility thus incurred may have been disguised by the false Apostles: or the Galatians may have been slow to realise it. St Paul’s appeal is to the individual conscience. ‘Warning every man and teaching every man ’ (Colossians 1:28 ) was his maxim as a minister of the Gospel, and it ought to be the maxim of all who claim to be successors of the Apostles.

4 . The same great and solemn truth is repeated in different terms. “Christ shall profit you nothing” = “a debtor to do the whole law” (and therefore under a curse in consequence of failure) = “Christ is of no effect unto you” = “ye are fallen from grace”. Similarly, “if ye become circumcised” = “every man that submits to circumcision” = “justified by the law”.

Christ is become of no effect ] Lit. ‘ye were cut off from Christ’, brought to nought as regards any benefit accruing to you from Him.

are justified by the law ] i.e. seek to be justified by the law.

ye are fallen ] Probably, ‘ye are cast forth’ (like Hagar and her son), banished from grace. The Apostle is not here stating anything as to the possibility of recovery after such a relapse. His object is to make it quite clear that if righteousness (or justification) is sought in the law (i.e. by works) it involves the forfeiture of grace, and the forfeiture of grace is ruin.

5 . ‘For we on the contrary, we who are Christ’s, through the Spirit are waiting for the hope of righteousness from faith’. The connecting particle ‘for’ has reference to the falling from grace . The gospel is a gospel of grace (Acts 20:24 ). The Spirit is the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:29 ). We have a good hope through grace (2 Thessalonians 2:16 ). Righteousness (justification) is of faith that it might be by grace (Romans 4:16 ).

the hope of righteousness ] This does not mean the righteousness hoped for. We who believe are now perfectly righteous, ‘being made’, as the Apostle says, ‘the righteousness of God in Him’. It may refer to that sanctifying righteousness which is progressive, ‘inherent in us but not perfect’ (as Hooker says), the perfection of which is the aim and end of our earthly discipline. Luther understands the expression to refer either to the hope of a full assurance of justifying faith, or to the hope of complete deliverance from sin. Writing out of the fulness of his own spiritual experience he adds: ‘Either sense may well stand; but the first, touching the inward desire and affection of hoping, bringeth more plentiful consolation, for my righteousness is not yet perfect, it cannot yet be felt: yet I do not despair; for faith sheweth unto me Christ, in whom I trust, and when I have laid hold of Him by faith, I wrestle against the fiery darts of the devil, and I take a good heart through hope against the feeling of sin, assuring myself that I have a perfect righteousness prepared for me in heaven. So both these sayings are true; that I am made righteous already by that righteousness which is begun in me; and also I am raised up in the same hope against sin, and wait for the full consummation of perfect righteousness in heaven. These things are not rightly understood, but when they be put in practice ’. But it is better to understand it of that object of hope which belongs to and arises out of our justification. By the faith which appropriates the righteousness of Christ we become sons of God and heirs of His everlasting kingdom. The inheritance is ‘that blessed hope and manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Titus 2:13 ).

6 . Anxious to remove all possibility of a misconstruction of his meaning, St Paul gives a reason for thus connecting the inheritance with faith . The fact of being circumcised or of being uncircumcised in itself is of no avail to a man’s salvation. If he is ‘in Christ Jesus’ he is safe; and he is in Christ by faith a faith working through love. We have a repetition of this statement in ch. 6:15 with the substitution of ‘a new creature’ for ‘faith working through love’.

Abraham believed before he was circumcised, St Paul was circumcised before he believed. Therefore the being circumcised or uncircumcised in itself availeth nothing.

but faith which worketh by love ] better, working by love . Most commentators regard this statement as reconciling the language of St Paul with that of St James concerning justification. But it may be observed that St Paul nowhere teaches that the faith which is without works justifies. He does assert (and St James does not contradict him), that man is justified by faith without works. Neither works, nor love, nor any other Christian graces, cooperate with faith in the justification of the sinner. They are the necessary fruits of a living faith.

The addition of the words, ‘working through love’, is an answer by anticipation to the charges of Antinomianism, so constantly brought against those who maintain the doctrine of justification by faith only.

7 . The abruptness of thought and style is a marked feature of these two chapters. It is not always possible to trace the connexion with certainty.

Ye did run well ] ‘You were running nobly’. The metaphor is taken from the stadium a favourite one with St Paul, c. 2:2; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 , &c.

who did hinder you ] who was it that threw obstacles in your way? There may be a covert allusion here to some particular individual, prominent among the false teachers, to whom reference is again made v . 10.

that ye should not obey the truth ] The truth personified, and here equivalent to the Gospel which Paul had preached to them. These words have been transferred from this place to ch. 3:1; see note there.

The verb ‘obey’ has the same root as the noun rendered ‘persuasion’ in the next verse, and they are in juxtaposition in the Greek. We have another instance of the Pauline usage pointed out in the note on v . 1. It is not easy to preserve the play on the words. It may be indicated by translating, ‘that from the truth you should withhold obedience . The obedience which you are rendering cometh not from him who calleth you’.

8 . This persuasion ] nearly equivalent to ‘submission, obedience’. Others take it in an active sense ‘this suasion on the part of the false teachers, to which you are yielding’. The objection to this view is that ‘persuasion’ is a weak term to apply to those who had hindered them by throwing obstacles in their way. The word translated hindered is a military term, and denotes the obstructions thrown in the way of an advancing army, by opening trenches, erecting barricades, &c. a very cogent kind of persuasion .

him that calleth you ] i.e. God the Father. The present participle is used here, instead of the past (c. 1:6), because the reference is not to the particular case of those addressed, but to that never-failing grace of God to which all ‘effectual calling’ is owing, Romans 9:11 .

9 . Leaven is that small portion of fermented dough which is introduced into the fresh lump of dough, and communicates lightness to the whole mass. It is employed figuratively in Scripture to denote the working of both good and bad influences, and is used both of persons and of principles or teaching comp. Matthew 16:12 ; Luke 13:21 . There is a reference, sometimes tacit, sometimes express (1 Corinthians 5:8 ), to the typical prohibition of the use of leaven in the law of Moses, Exodus 12:15-20 , Exodus 12:34 . This verse, which occurs again, 1 Corinthians 5:6 , seems to have passed into a proverb. There the Apostle is condemning the toleration of a single act of open immorality in a member of the Church of Christ. It was the concession of a principle, and whether it be followed by other similar acts or not, the standard of Christian morality will be lowered, and a laxity of tone will gradually pervade the spirit, and degrade the practice, of those who are called ‘not unto uncleanness but unto holiness’. Here the warning is against the insidious nature of the false teaching of the Judaizing leaders. The difference between that teaching and ‘the truth of the Gospel’ may appear inconsiderable, and the teachers themselves may be insignificant in numbers or in authority. But error, once admitted, is a virus which will gradually spread and poison the whole system of doctrine, or the whole spiritual life of the individual or of the Church.

10 . An abrupt return to a more favourable judgment of the Galatian converts, while strongly noting the guilt of those who sought to unsettle their faith.

I have confidence … the Lord ] ‘ I ’ (emphatic) have confidence with respect to you in the Lord’. The words ‘in the Lord’ are rightly explained by Jowett ‘all acts of the Christian being described as being done in God and Christ’. Comp. 2 Thessalonians 3:4 , ‘We have in the Lord confidence concerning you, that what we enjoin, ye both do and will do’.

be none otherwise minded ] The verb here used denotes sometimes the exercise of the judgment, sometimes the bent of the affections the whole mental and moral disposition in reference to an object. Its force will be best understood by reference to some of the passages in which it occurs. Matthew 16:23 ; Romans 8:5 ; Philippians 2:5 , Philippians 3:19 . In the last of these passages they ‘who mind earthly things’ are in contrast with those who ‘ set their affections on the things that are above’ Colossians 3:2 . The same verb in the Greek.

Here, as in Philippians 3:15 , the meaning appears to be, ‘ye will adopt no new principles other than ye were taught by me’.

he that troubleth you ] In c. 1:7 St Paul used the plural. Here by the use of the singular number he seems to have some individual in his mind. We may certainly reject the suggestion of Jerome that St Peter is alluded to. It is hardly likely that after mentioning him by name (c. 2:11) St Paul would thus obscurely denounce him. Besides, though St Peter had by cowardly concession encouraged the Judaizing party, he held the same truth as St Paul and was not a ‘troubler of Israel’.

shall bear his judgment ] lit. ‘ the sentence’. More than ecclesiastical censure is meant. Used thus absolutely, the word must refer to the judgment of God, which the Apostle regards as a crushing burden. We are reminded of the words of Joshua to Achan, ‘Why hast thou troubled us? The Lord shall trouble thee this day’. Joshua 7:25 .

11 . Another abrupt transition of thought, rendering the connexion obscure and uncertain. It is however evident either that a charge of inconsistency had been brought against St Paul, or that the possibility of such a charge flashed across his mind. He could find no language too strong to condemn those who submitted to circumcision, and yet it was an admitted fact that he had himself circumcised Timothy. Did he not ‘yet’ (still) virtually preach circumcision, as he had insisted on it before his conversion? This was a specious, and if unrefuted, a fatal objection. Based on a fact, it must be met by an appeal to fact the fact of persecution. ‘If I still Judaize, why do the Judaizers still persecute me?’

then is the offence of the cross ceased ] This is ironical, ‘I suppose then the doctrine of the cross has utterly ceased to be a stumbling-block; so that there really is no reason why I should suffer persecution’.

the offence of the cross ] The fact that Jesus died on the cross does not in itself constitute ‘the offence of the cross’. It is accepted by many who deny its atoning efficacy. ‘The offence of the cross’ in every age consists in this, that it cuts at the root of human merit in the matter of justification , whether in the form of legal observance, or holy dispositions, or good works. The Jews (as Chrysostom points out) accused Stephen not of worshipping or preaching Christ crucified, but of speaking against the law and the holy place. And if St Paul had preached Christ’s death upon the cross as a pattern of humility and submission, he would have escaped persecution. But he preached righteousness by the cross alone through faith, and they were offended. No more striking commentary on these words can be adduced than St Paul’s language, Romans 9:31-33 , ‘Israel following after a law of righteousness, did not attain to a law of righteousness. Why? because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by works of the law. They stumbled at the stone of stumbling (were offended at the rock of offence); even as it is written (Isaiah 28:16 ), Behold I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence, and he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame’. It is interesting to note that St Peter quotes the same passage of Isaiah in a letter addressed to the strangers of Galatia (1 Peter 2:6-8 ).

ceased ] entirely done away with . The same word which is rendered ‘is become of no effect’ v . 4. Comp. Romans 4:14 ; Romans 7:2 .

12 . The Apostle gives vent to his righteous indignation.

they were even cut off ] Two explanations of this expression are given. All expositors however agree in translating the verb as a middle , not as passive .

(1) ‘I would that they who are such advocates for circumcision would go further and practise self-mutilation, like the priests of Cybele’. This is the view of Chrysostom and has the support of the most eminent commentators, ancient and modern. Bp. Lightfoot remarks, that ‘by glorying in the flesh’ the Galatians were returning in a very marked way to the bondage of their former heathenism; and Dr Jowett considers that ‘the common interpretation of the Fathers, confirmed by the use of language in the Septuagint, is not to be rejected only because it is displeasing to the delicacy of modern times’.

(2) ‘I would that they who are not merely teaching error, but stirring up sedition among you, would go further and even cut themselves off from you’, i.e. that instead of remaining as a disturbing element in the Church, they would openly secede and sever themselves. In favour of this interpretation (which seems to be adopted by the R.V. ‘even cut themselves off’ 1 1 With the alternative in the Margin, ‘Mutilate themselves’. ) the following considerations are of weight: ( a ) The word occurs three times (exclusive of repetitions) in the active voice in the N. T. and always in the physical sense = ‘amputate’ or cut through. It occurs nowhere else in the middle . And it is common for a verb to undergo a change from the physical to the ethical sense with the change of voice. ( b ) It is not met with in the middle in the LXX. The passive participle occurs once in the sense of ‘mutilated’. ( c ) The word rendered ‘trouble’ you, is not the same as that used in v . 10, but a term descriptive of the action of those leaders who stirred up a body of disaffected citizens, inducing them to abandon their homes and live by warfare or depredation, comp. Acts 21:38 . What wish more natural than that men with such sectarian aims should sever themselves wholly from the company of believers? ( d ) The coarseness of the former explanation is heightened by the abruptness of the wish. There is moreover no other allusion in St Paul’s writings to the practice in question.

Between the two interpretations the student must choose that which approves itself to his judgment.

13 15. Liberty must not be abused

13 . St Paul seems to be recurring to what he had said in v . 7, the intermediate verses being a sort of parenthesis in which he wanders from the main line of thought. ‘This submission cometh not from Him that calleth you a little leaven, &c. for ye were called unto freedom brethren’.

unto liberty ] lit. ‘on condition of freedom.’ The terms (and so the object) of your calling were freedom.

an occasion to the flesh ] By the word ‘flesh’ we must understand not merely sensual indulgence, but that natural selfishness which finds expression in the disregard of other people’s rights and interests, ‘hatred, variance, emulations’, and the like. Patristic expositors take occasion to point out that ‘the flesh’ does not mean ‘the material body’, for many of the sins enumerated below as ‘works of the flesh’ have their seat in the soul. The effects of the Fall have extended to the whole man, that unrenewed nature which ‘is become corrupt in accordance with the lusts of deceit’ (Ephesians 4:22 ) and ‘which is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be’, see Romans 8:5-7 .

by love serve one another ] The service of God, and of man for His sake, is alone perfect freedom. Too much stress cannot be laid on the expression, ‘ serve one another’. Act as the slaves of your fellow-men. This is true Christian liberty.

14 . ‘You would go back to bondage; there is a servitude which constitutes liberty. You desire to be under the law; there is a law the law of love to which ye will do well to submit yourselves; for all the requirements of the law are met by the fulfilment of one precept Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’ Similarly in Romans 13:8-10 , ‘He that loveth another hath fulfilled the law … Whatever other commandments there are, all are summed up in this precept, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself … love is the fulfilling of the law.’

thy neighbour ] This term in the original precept (Leviticus 19:18 ) had reference only to the Jewish people, but our Lord enlarged its scope so as to include everyone whom it is in our power to benefit or injure, i.e. all men. It is so explained in the Church Catechism ‘My duty towards my neighbour is to love him as myself, to do unto all men &c.’

15 . To bite and to devour is to act like wild beasts. The words are of course used figuratively to denote attacks made under the influence of evil passions, and especially through the rancour of party spirit. These attacks would consist of abuse or slander, invective or innuendo, followed up perhaps by fraud or violence.

The result can only be mutual destruction the ruin of both parties in the conflict.

16 26. The spiritual life of liberty inconsistent with the indulgence of the works of the flesh

16 . This I say then ] After affirming the great law of Christian perfection in v . 14 and pointing out the effects of its violation, St Paul proceeds to shew how alone the former may be obeyed and the latter escaped. The controversies and heartburnings from which the Galatian Chruch was suffering were due to the lusts of the flesh (comp. James 4:1 , James 4:2 ). There was only one means by which the tyranny of these lusts could be resisted and broken by the guidance and power of Him Who is the Spirit both of love and of liberty.

Walk in the Spirit ] R.V. ‘Walk by the Spirit.’ This is differently explained, (1) by, or according to the rule of the Spirit, comp. v . 18, 25; 6:16; (2) by the guidance of the Spirit; (3) by the help of the Spirit; (4) spiritually. For each view something is to be said grammatically . All together do not exhaust the fulness of the expression. The points to be noted are ( a ) The antagonism between the Spirit the Holy Ghost in all that He is, and works and produces, and the flesh with its appetites and works. ( b ) The absolute certainty of victory over the flesh to all those who walk in or by the Spirit. Unspeakably great as is the blessing of pardon and justification by faith, it would be an incomplete blessing but for the assurance of this verse. Freedom from condemnation cannot satisfy the conscience which God’s Spirit has touched without the assured hope of victory over the lust of the flesh. Walking denotes activity. The metaphor is very common in St Paul and in St John. To walk in truth, in darkness, according to the flesh, &c., are familiar instances. The word in the original is not the same as in v . 25, where not mere activity, but deliberate movement is intended.

ye shall not fulfil ] The strongest negation possible. ‘Ye shall in no wise fulfil.’ Blessed assurance!

17, 18 . I say ‘fulfil’ for I well know that the spiritual life is, and must be, one of conflict you must fight manfully under Christ’s banner and continue His faithful soldiers unto your life’s end. The flesh, ‘the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts’, is in deadly antagonism to the Spirit to the new and Divine nature, and to the Holy Ghost its Author. These stand eternally opposed to one another; and as both exist in you , ye cannot always do such things as ye would; comp. Romans 7:15-25 . But if ye are led by the Spirit, this conflict implies not bondage but freedom the freedom of sons; “for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Romans 8:14 .

19 23 . St Paul supplies a test whereby men may ascertain whether they are under the curse of the law or heirs of the promise.

First, the Apostle gives a list of the works of the flesh not complete but comprehensive the commission of which excludes men from the inheritance. They cannot plead the promise. It is not for such as they. They shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. Then follows, not an enumeration of the works of the Spirit, but a statement of its fruit. Vital Christianity is not a set of acts a list of good deeds it is a disposition of the heart a character . If the tree is good, the fruit will be good; and by its effects ‘a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit’, Art. XII.

19 … 21 . A fourfold classification of the sins here mentioned has been suggested; (1) sins of sensuality; (2) sins connected with heathenism as a religion (idolatry and sorcery); (3) violations of the law of love, in feeling and in act; (4) sins of intemperance.

which are these ] ‘such as, for example.’ The catalogue does not pretend to be complete.

adultery ] Omitted in the best MSS. Jerome, after observing that in the Latin copies ‘adulteries’ and ‘murders’ are contained in St Paul’s catalogue, adds, ‘but it should be known that only fifteen works of the flesh are specified’. It is included in the general term ‘fornication’, which here denotes all improper relations between the sexes , married or single. (Matthew 5:32 .)

uncleanness ] Impurity generally, but with special reference to those unnnatural vices to which many heathen were addicted.

lasciviousness ] Rather, ‘open, shameless profligacy’.

20, 21 . The second class of sins are those which concern religion idolatry and sorcery, or witchcraft. The word ‘idolatry’ is probably to be understood here in its literal sense, the worship of false deities, and not in the metaphorical and wider sense in which it is employed by St Paul, e.g. Ephesians 5:5 , a passage which is, however, strikingly parallel to this. Comp. Colossians 3:5 ; 1 Corinthians 5:11 . The connexion with ‘sorceries’, as in Revelation 21:8 , seems to limit the meaning to the superstitious worship of the heathen.

The word rendered ‘witchcraft’ originally meant ‘the use of drugs’, then, in a bad sense, ‘poisoning’. Those who ‘used curious arts’ (Acts 19:19 ) combined demonology or witchcraft with the use of drugs as philtres, &c. For an illustration of this compare the well-known 5th Epode of Horace.

The next eight ‘works of the flesh’ are those which are directly opposed to love of our neighbour or Christian charity. Translate, ‘enmities, strife, rivalry, angers, factions, divisions, sects, envyings’. The first four of these are enumerated in the same order, 2 Corinthians 12:20 .

heresies ] Rendered rightly ‘sects’ by Wiclif, Tyndale, and Cranmer, and also in the Rhemish N. T. The Vulgate has ‘sectæ’. It means the formation of ‘distinct and organized parties’ a further development of ‘divisions’; see 1 Corinthians 11:18 . It is applied to the Sadducees, Acts 5:17 ; to the Pharisees, 15:5; to the Nazarenes, 24:5.

murders ] Possibly this should be omitted with R.V. There is an alliteration between the Greek words rendered ‘envyings, murders’, which is lost in a translation. They occur together Romans 1:29 . See the reference to Jerome in note on vv. 19 21.

drunkenness, revellings ] Probably no better rendering can be found for the latter of these words. In Classical Greek it is used of those nightly revellings in which the wealthier young men indulged, when after an evening spent in debauchery they disturbed the quiet of the streets by ribald songs and noisy violence. Readers of the Spectator will remember that such ‘revellings’ were common enough in London at the beginning of the last century to provoke the rebuke of the moralist: Spectator , No. 324; Macaulay, Hist . c. 111. p. 360. Drunkenness may be secret, or it may result in orgies or riot. Ephesians 5:18 .

and such like ] = ‘such things’ in the following clause. The catalogue, terribly large as it is, does not specify every form of working under which the flesh manifests itself. ‘Man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit’. Art. ix.

I tell you before … in time past ] In respect of which I forewarn you, even as I forewarned you , when I was present with you.

they which do ] R.V. who practise . Exclusion from the Kingdom of Heaven is denounced not against all who have at any time committed any of these sins (for who then can be saved?) but against all who remain impenitent, and who do not ‘through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body’. In two other Epistles (1 Corinthians 6:9 , 1 Corinthians 6:10 ; Ephesians 5:5 ), St Paul uses nearly the same terms as to the sins which disinherit a man from ‘the Kingdom of God’. The Kingdom is not the visible Church, in which the tares and the wheat grow together: neither is it the Gospel dispensation a sense in which it is sometimes used, e.g. Matthew 3:2 ; Luke 7:28 but that Kingdom for whose Advent we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, which has been the hope of loyal hearts from early days, the theme of Psalmist and Prophet, the vision of the beloved disciple in Patmos not heaven, though ‘ of heaven’, not earth, though ‘on the earth’ the Kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world for the beloved of the Father, the adopted ‘sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty’.

22, 23 . The works of the flesh are many, the fruit of the Spirit is one, yet manifold. The works of the flesh are in a measure independent of each other. It cannot be said that every unregenerate man commits all of them. But he who has the Spirit of Christ has in him the root of all Christian graces. The ‘fruit of the Spirit’ is described elsewhere as consisting in ‘all goodness and righteousness and truth’. Ephesians 5:9 .

It is possible, though not necessary, to group these graces in three triads. In any such artifical arrangement, there is a danger of limiting or torturing the several terms to make them fall in with a preconceived scheme.

love ] This stands first, not as distinct from, but as including all the rest.

joy ] ‘joy in the Holy Ghost’ (Romans 14:17 ), manifesting itself in cheerfulness of demeanour, and so recommending the religion of which it is the fruit not a selfish emotion, but a sun whose rays warm and gladden all within the sphere of its influence. The people of God are frequently exhorted to rejoice, e.g. Psalms 33:1 , 97:12; Philippians 4:4 , &c.

peace ] In the conscience, pervading the soul, calming the passions, manifested in the disposition and conduct.

longsuffering ] An attribute of God, 1 Timothy 1:12 ; 1 Peter 3:20 ; 2 Peter 3:15 . Here it means, patience sustained under injuries and provocation.

gentleness ] Rather, kindliness . A term frequently applied to God, e.g. Titus 3:4 , where it is rendered by both A.V. and R.V. ‘kindness’. So in the LXX. version of Psalms 24:9 ; Psalms 33:8 , &c.

goodness ] ‘beneficence’.

faith ] Either ‘fidelity’, ‘trustworthiness’; or ‘trustfulness’ as opposed to distrust in dealings with others. It may include both. The latter is the consequence of the former. The heart which is conscious of integrity is ever least prone to entertain suspicion.

meekness ] A grace of the soul which consists in habitual submission to the dealings of God, arising from a sense of His greatness, and the man’s own littleness and sin. Hence the meek will regard all the insults and wrongs inflicted by men as permitted by God and a part of His discipline. This word is coupled with ‘longsuffering’, Colossians 3:12 , with ‘lowliness’, Ephesians 4:2 . For a critical distinction between them see Trench On N. T. Synonyms , pp. 142 148.

temperance ] ‘self-mastery’, not to be limited, with some of the Fathers, to continence in the sense of virginity, or with many moderns, to abstinence from fermented drinks. The Christian, like the ancient athlete, ‘exercises self-control in all respects ’. 1 Corinthians 9:25 .

against such there is no law ] There is a recurrence to what the Apostle had said above, v . 18. ‘If ye are led by the Spirit’ (i.e. if ye bring forth the fruits of the Spirit) ‘ye are not under the law’, for there is no law to prohibit or condemn such things as these. It is, however, possible to understand ‘ such ’, as masculine, such characters or persons. Comp. 1 Timothy 1:9 , 1 Timothy 1:10 where the law is described as aimed not at crimes but at those who commit them. Jowett observes that the law ‘neither prohibits nor enjoins Christian graces, which belong to a different sphere.’

24 . they that are Christ’s ] They who belong to Christ, who are His by redemption or perhaps as in 3:29, who are part of Christ. The same expression occ. 1 Corinthians 15:23 . The R.V. reads ‘They that are of Christ Jesus ’, which has the support of the earlier MSS.

have crucified ] The aorist may be rendered strictly ‘crucified’; in which case the reference will be to their conversion and baptism. But in many passages of the N. T. this tense must be represented in translation by the English perfect as its true equivalent. Crucifixion is a lingering mode of death; and though the reception of Baptism was an overt and initial act by which the deeds of the body were mortified, yet such mortification is continued daily through the whole of the believer’s earthly life. It only ceases when he is ‘delivered from the burden of the flesh’. Compare the prayer for the newly baptized in the Office for Baptism: ‘that he being dead unto sin … may crucify the old man, and utterly abolish the whole body of sin’.

the affections and lusts ] ‘its passions and appetites’. See Trench, N. T. Syn . p. 311, foll.

25 . The mention of crucifixion suggests death the death of ‘the old man’, which is the condition and birth of the new life in Christ. Very similar is the train of thought in Colossians 2:3 . foll.

If we live in the Spirit , &c.] The word ‘Spirit’ in the Greek is a simple dative in both clauses of the verse. Of course it can be understood as such in the former, though hardly in the latter. Lightfoot renders, ‘If we live to the Spirit let us also walk by the Spirit’, supporting the rendering in the former clause by the well-known phraseology of St Paul, ‘to live to God or to the Lord’, Romans 6:11 , Romans 6:14 :6, Romans 6:8 ; 2 Corinthians 5:15 , and in the latter by the similar expressions in v . 16 and ch. 6:16.

Other commentators adopt either the reading of the A.V., or that of R.V. which has ‘by the Spirit’ in both clauses.

The sense of the passage is ‘If we are partakers of a new life of which the Holy Spirit is the Author, let it be manifested by our submission to His guidance in all our proceedings and actions’ or, more simply, ‘if we really have spiritual life, let its activities be spiritual too.’

let us also walk ] The word rendered ‘walk’ here and in ch. 6:16, is not the same in the original as in v . 16. It occurs Acts 21:24 ; Romans 4:12 ; Philippians 3:16 , and denotes the careful direction of the footsteps a measured walk in contrast to mere locomotion. The same distinction is marked in French between marcher and promener .

26 . To soften the rebuke, St Paul uses the 1st pers. plur., including himself with those by whom the warning is needed. A walk directed by the Spirit of God will not lead to the display of strife and vain-glory or the indulgence of envy, all which are works of the flesh. Compare Ephesians 4:1 , Ephesians 4:2 , ‘I beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye were called, with all lowliness and meekness, &c.’

Let us not be ] Rather, ‘let us not become, or appear.’

vain-glory ] The true Christian ought to regard all glory as vain and empty save that which cometh from Him who alone is God. John 4:44 .

provoking … envying …] To provoke or challenge is the act of the stronger party. Where this is impossible, the heart-sin of envy may be indulged by those who lack power or opportunity of active aggression.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Galatians 5". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.