Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, May 30th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
Galatians 5

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

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Verse 1

Galatians 4:21 to Galatians 5:1 . The new thing he tries is an allegorising spiritualising application of an OT story. Slave-born Ishmael mocked ( Genesis 21:10 *) free-born Isaac, and the son of the slave was righteously cast out. God means us to learn from this! Once more it is claimed that the OT supports Paul. A second quasi-allegory is intertwined with the first. According to later Jewish theology, the real Jerusalem, like all other sacred things, existed originally in heaven. And according to Paul the material or earthly Jerusalem, which rejects Jesus and clings to Law, is in hopeless bondage. Isaiah 54:1 must refer to the heavenly Jerusalem, partially manifested in the NT Church. Once more then, choose— between Christ and Law; Ishmael and Isaac; the true Jerusalem and the sham. Nay, they have chosen. Let them stand by their good choice! Let them not frustrate Christ’ s design ( Galatians 5:1 mg.) .

[ Galatians 4:25 . The meaning is apparently that the word “ Hagar” is in Arabia used for Mt. Sinai. That this is philologically uncertain is no proof that Paul did not mean this. It gives an excellent sense, for it justifies the equation of Hagar with the Sinaitic covenant. Paul may say “ in Arabia” rather than in the Arabian language, because he is referring to a local usage. If mg. gives the correct text, it is probably a gloss. An interesting suggestion has been made to the effect that the verb rendered “ answereth to” means “ has the same numerical value as.” The Gr. words rendered “ Hagar Sinai” = 1365 , “ the Jerusalem that now is” = 1364 . But the Alpha in the former equation has to mean both 1 and 1000 , there is a difference between the totals, and there is no indication of this sense in the passage. The verb means “ is in the same category with.”— A. S. P.]

Verses 2-12

Galatians 5:2-12 . Final emphatic statement of the dilemma, Christ or circumcision. Paul, speaking with all authority— in spite of false inferences drawn from his circumcising Timothy ( Galatians 5:11) and in spite of probable evasions on the part of the Judaizers— testifies that those circumcised on religious grounds must keep the whole Law. More important still, in accepting such a rite as necessary to salvation, one renounces Christ; to whom all Christians taught by the Spirit look in faith for the sentence of justification at the great day of judgment. Not that, as an external inherited rite, circumcision is a matter of any consequence. Neither it nor uncircumcision ( cf. Galatians 6:15, 1 Corinthians 7:19). Faith is all, and faith works through love. (“ Working” ( Galatians 5:6) is theologically, and by analogy of Paul’ s language elsewhere, preferable to mg. “ wrought.” ) They had known this and acted accordingly. Who— the word (as at Galatians 3:1) is singular— had arrested their progress? A “ persuasive” influence on the wrong side ( cf. Galatians 1:10), assuredly not from God. Is the small knot of errorists really to leaven the whole community? (Best taken as a question; so, but differently, 1 Corinthians 5:6.) Paul at least is confident of a better issue, through Christ’ s grace; the leader— we have no light at all on his identity— will have a terrible punishment Divinely appointed him. Do any pretend that Timothy’ s circumciser is himself, when it suits his book, a preacher of circumcision? Facts prove the opposite; he is persecuted. Christian doctrine proves the opposite; all true Christians preach the Cross— an insuperable stumbling-block ( cf. 1 Corinthians 1:23) to the unregenerate Jewish mind. Pity that these fanatics for a surgical operation would not carry it further and castrate themselves ( mg.) like some of the heathen of Asia Minor.

Verses 13-15

Galatians 5:13-15 . First safeguard. They are free indeed, and as Christians are done with Law; but love will save them from indulging lower impulses. Love (as Jesus taught, Mark 12:31 and parallels) includes everything (more fully Romans 13:9 f.). Paul fears cruel partisanships in Galatia— love will prove a remedy.

Galatians 5:16-24 . Second safeguard— the Spirit; a source not only of trust in God, but of moral activity. Spirit and “ flesh,” the renewed nature and the lower nature of man, are flatly antagonistic; we “ cannot” but be thwarted on one side or other. (In strict classical grammar, Galatians 5:17 d means “ in order that,” etc., and ought to refer to a Divine appointment. If that be the meaning here, it is best to regard “ for these . . . other” as a parenthesis, and to take the Divine purpose to be “ We must not obey our lower promptings.” But it is not certain that Paul’ s grammar is strictly classical.) If we are true to the promptings of the renewed nature, Law has no charge to bring against us.

Galatians 5:19 . the works of the flesh include much besides sensuality. From the very first ( Galatians 5:21) Paul must have warned inquirers and converts against bad lives. Per contra ( Galatians 5:22) the fruit (not, as often misquoted, “ fruits” ) of the Spirit grows out of a renewed heart, and includes “ love . . . fidelity . . . self-control.”— against such: Paul knows of a law which says “ Do this and live” ( Galatians 3:12); but he usually thinks of the Law as saying, “ Thou shalt not” ( Romans 7:7), and as a gigantic enemy. The true Christian has no such enemy to fear. He has broken once for all with reigning sin.

Verses 13-26

Galatians 5:13 to Galatians 6:10 . Practical appendix to the epistle; in the form of “ guarding” the doctrine of free grace against antinomian abuse.

Verse 25

Galatians 5:25 f. Though RV marks a new paragraph, and different language is employed, these verses scarcely add anything to the thought. They name no fresh safeguard, but recapitulate Galatians 5:16-24 with strengthened emphasis (recalling Galatians 5:15) on the danger of quarrels.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Galatians 5". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/galatians-5.html. 1919.
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