Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 28th, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
Galatians 5

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-26

Galatians 5:1 . Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, by the redemption he has procured through the shedding of his own most precious blood. The liberty of your celestial birth, comprising pardon, and all the blessings of the new covenant. The power to leave the galling rituals of the law behind, and put on the garments of righteousness, as the sons of Abraham and of Sarah. The yoke of bondage is now superseded by divine adoption, which makes us sons of God, and heirs of all.

Galatians 5:3 . For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Open your eyes, oh Galatians, to the glory you leave, and to the obligations you incur. The moment you do this, all that Christ has done for your redemption is of no avail. You are fallen from grace, from the glorious gospel of the blessed God.

Galatians 5:5 . For we through the Spirit, the spiritual, and not the carnal worship of God, wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. All the evangelical righteousness which God has promised to rain down on the church in the Messiah’s days. Isaiah 45:8; Isaiah 51:6. Daniel 9:24. Romans 3:21. This righteousness then is obtained by faith, and not by the works of the law. It opens heaven, and all the fruits of righteousness in the soul. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith which works by love.

Galatians 5:10 . I have confidence in you through [in] the Lord, that you will turn a deaf ear to all your troublers, the pests of the church; that the reading of this epistle will be like the out-breaking of the sun in a dark and cloudy day; and that the truth as it is in Jesus will again irradiate your minds, and warm your hearts.

Galatians 5:12 . I would they were even cut off which trouble you. God may grant them space for repentance; but if otherwise, I know that the man who shall vex and afflict the little one who believes in Jesus, be his rank what it may, shall bear his iniquity; and more than he who is sentenced, like a dog, to be drowned in the sea, with a millstone about his neck. Matthew 18:6. He speaks of those troublers with equal contempt, in Philippians 3:2. Let the authors of schisms seriously weigh the consequences, before they are infatuated to rend and devour the flock.

Galatians 5:17 . The flesh lusteth against the Spirit so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. Where did the translator get the word cannot? The Greek is, το δε πνευμα κατα της σαρκος θελητε ταυτα ποιητε . “But the Spirit lusteth against the flesh, and these are contrary one to the other, that you do not, or may not do the things that ye would.” Beza reads, ut non id quod volueritis faciatis, that ye do not what ye would. The Mons Testament, by doctors of the Sorbon, reads the same. De sorte que vous ne faite pas les chose que voudriez. The phrase is thus understood in the subjunctive mood, the flesh lusts that ye may not do what ye would. This interpretation harmonizes the sense of the preseding words. “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.”

Galatians 5:18 . But if ye be led of the Spirit, as on Romans 8:14.

Galatians 5:19 . The works of the flesh are manifest adultery, a sin which according to the good Mr. Walker of Truro, “damns two souls at once.” Yet God even here grants the Jezebels a space for repentance. Revelation 2:20. A man must leave father and mother for his wife; the holy seed must not be stained.

Ακαθαρσια , uncleanness, comprising all evil thoughts, words, and gestures, the reverse of one whose body is the temple of the Holy Ghost.

Ασελγεια , lasciviousness, impure thoughts, and all the consequent looks and habits of life. The word chiefly refers to the sins of the heart, super- inducing effeminacy of habit.

Galatians 5:20 . Φαρμακεια , witchcraft, veneficium, incantation, sorcery, as practised by Simon Magus. Acts 8:9. See on Leviticus 19:3; Leviticus 20:6-27.

Galatians 5:22 . But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace. Beautiful is the order of the graces; joy follows love, for we naturally rejoice in the happiness of those we love and esteem. Peace is the result of love.

“Soft peace she brings wherever she arrives;

She builds our quiet, as she forms our lives;

Lays the rough paths of peevish nature even,

And opens in each breast a little heaven.”


This epistle is the emanation of the heart, as well as of a mind full of divine wisdom. The soul of the writer travailed in birth for the restoration of his children to their former faith, simplicity, and love. His arguments are, what they should be, paternal, luminous, bold, and strong. They are the words of one accustomed to conquer in the fight; for no man in the church thought of correcting what Paul had said.

After argument, persuasion follows. Stand fast therefore in the liberty with which Christ, at the expense of his life, hath made you free. Liberty! Oh hallowed name; the charm of every heart, the grand point of concord in all the living beings of the earth. The birds seek it in flight, the fishes pursue it in their sports, and more or less it is the fond wish of nations in all their revolutions. But ah, what is civil liberty, while the heart is left the slave of sin? Chains of iron are transient, and less severe than the servitude of sin.

The apostle therefore cautions the Galatians against the licentiousness of the Gnostic boasted liberty, by opening their eyes to the works of the flesh, which appear more odious by contrast with the fruits of the Spirit. These are the two principles which wage eternal war, till sin shall be destroyed. In the one we see the house of Baal, full of crimes, works of death, whose very names revolt the chaster mind. In the other we see the heavenly Jerusalem, the chaste spouse of Christ, adorned with all the beauties of God our Saviour.

In that temple, instead of envy and malice, instead of biting and devouring one another, we see love, joy, peace, reigning in every heart. Longsuffering with difficulties, gentleness of behaviour, real goodness of heart, and goodwill to men; fidelity in every duty, and temperance, named the last, as the guardian of every grace.

These, in the church, are the grand characteristics of the people of God; for they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, with its affections and desires. Having found true peace of mind, they cease to be desirous of vain boasting and glory; and unlike the troublers of Israel, of whom the apostle complains, they recede from all provocation and envy. To the good man, the Lord is a satisfying portion, and his exceeding great reward in the life to come.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Galatians 5". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/galatians-5.html. 1835.
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