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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Galatians

- Galatians

The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic

COMMENTARY
ON THE EPISTLES OF ST. PAUL THE APOSTLE

Galatians, Ephesians
Philippians, Colossians

AND

I.-II. Thessalonians


By the
REV. GEORGE BARLOW

Author of the Commentaries on Kings, Psalms (CXXI.–CXXX.), Lamentations, Ezekiel, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon


New York

FUNK & WAGNALLS COMPANY
LONDON AND TORONTO
1892

THE PREACHER’S
COMPLETE HOMILETIC
COMMENTARY
ON THE BOOKS OF THE BIBLE
WITH CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES, INDEXES, ETC., BY VARIOUS AUTHORS

THE
PREACHER’S HOMILETICAL COMMENTARY
HOMILIES FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS

Church Seasons: Advent, Ephesians 5:13-14; 1 Thessalonians 3:13 b; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:5. Christmas, Galatians 4:4. Lent, Colossians 2:21-23; Colossians 3:5-9. Good Friday, Galatians 1:4; Galatians 6:14-15; Philippians 2:8; Colossians 2:15. St. Mark’s Day, Ephesians 4:7. Ascension Day, Ephesians 4:9-10; Philippians 3:10; Colossians 3:1-2. Whit Sunday, Galatians 5:22-26, Galatians 5:25; Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30; 2 Thessalonians 2:13. Trinity Sunday, Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 4:4-6.

Holy Communion: Ephesians 2:19; Ephesians 3:15; Colossians 3:17.

Missions to Heathen: Ephesians 2:3; Ephesians 2:11-12; Ephesians 3:1-6. Bible Society, Ephesians 6:17.

Evangelistic Services: Ephesians 1:7-8; Ephesians 2:1-9; Colossians 1:13-14; Colossians 2:13-14.

Special: Ordination, Galatians 1:10; Galatians 1:15-19; Galatians 6:6; Ephesians 3:7-9; Ephesians 4:11-12; Ephesians 6:20; Colossians 1:25-27; Colossians 1:28-29; Colossians 4:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12. Workers, Galatians 1:6; Ephesians 4:11-12; Philippians 4:2-3; 2 Thessalonians 3:13. Baptism, Galatians 3:26-29; Colossians 2:12. Confirmation, Ephesians 2:20-22. Harvest, Galatians 6:7-9. Temperance, Ephesians 5:18. Friendly Society, Galatians 6:2. Death, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14. Parents, Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:20-21; Colossians 3:23-25. Young, Ephesians 6:1-4; Philippians 1:10 b. Worship, Ephesians 5:19-21; Almsgiving, Galatians 2:10; Galatians 6:2; Galatians 6:10; Philippians 4:15-16.

GALATIANS

INTRODUCTION

Character of the Galatians.—These people were of Celtic descent. They were the relics of a Gaulish invasion which swept over South-eastern Europe in the early part of the third century before Christ and poured into Asia Minor. Here the Celtic tribes maintained themselves in independence under their native princes, until a hundred years later they were subdued by the Romans. Their country now formed a province of the empire. They had retained much of their ancient language and manners; at the same time they readily acquired Greek culture, and were superior to their neighbours in intelligence. Jews had settled among them in considerable numbers, and had prepared the way of the gospel; it was through their influence that the Judaistic agitation took so strong a hold of the Galatian Churches. The epistle implies that its readers generally were acquainted with the Old Testament and with Hebrew history, and that they took a lively interest in the affairs of the Churches of Jerusalem and Antioch. None of the New Testament Churches possesses a more strongly marked character. They exhibit the well-known traits of the Celtic nature. They were generous, impulsive, vehement in feeling and language; but vain, fickle, and quarrelsome. Cæsar wrote: “The infirmity of the Gauls is that they are fickle in their resolves, fond of change, and not to be trusted”; and by Thierry they are characterised thus: “Frank, impetuous, impressible, eminently intelligent, but at the same time extremely changeable, inconstant, fond of show, perpetually quarrelling, the fruit of excessive vanity.” Eight of the fifteen works of the flesh enumerated in chap. Galatians 5:20-21 are sins of strife. They could hardly be restrained from “biting and devouring one another” (Galatians 5:15). Like their kinsmen at this time in the west of Europe, they were prone to revellings and drunkenness. They had probably a natural bent toward a scenic and ritualistic type of religion, which made the spirituality of the gospel pall upon their taste and gave to the teaching of the Judaisers its fatal bewitchment.

The authorship of the epistle.—That it was written by St. Paul has never been seriously doubted. His authorship is upheld by the unanimous testimony of the ancient Church. Allusions and indirect citations are found in the writings of the apostolic Fathers—Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, and Justin Martyr, or whoever wrote the Oratio ad Græcos. The internal evidence of Pauline authorship is conclusive by allusions to the history and by the self-portrayal of the writer’s character. No forger ever made an imitation in which were so many secret threads of similarity, which bore such a stamp of originality, or in which the character, the passion, the mode of thought and reasoning, were so naturally represented. The apostle’s mental characteristics are indelibly impressed on the letter.

The time of writing the epistle.—Lightfoot, in disagreement from most earlier interpreters, maintained that this epistle was written between 2 Corinthians and Romans—that is, during the latter part of Paul’s journey in Macedonia, or the earlier part of his sojourn at Corinth, towards the close of the year 57 or 58 A.D. Dr. Beet comes to the same conclusion. There is nothing in the letter itself to fix definitely either the place or time of its composition. From chap. Galatians 1:9, Galatians 4:13, Galatians 5:3 we gather that St. Paul had now been in Galatia twice; the epistle was therefore subsequent to the journey which he took across Asia Minor in setting out on his third missionary tour (Acts 18:22 to Acts 19:1). All students are agreed that it belongs to the period of the legalist controversy and to the second group of the epistles. On every account one is inclined to refer the letter to the last rather than to an earlier period of the third missionary tour. Comparison with the other epistles of the group raises this probability almost to a certainty, and enables us to fix the date and occasion of this letter with confidence.

The purpose and analysis of the epistle.—It is intensely polemical. It is a controversial pamphlet rather than an ordinary letter. The matter of dispute is twofold:

1. Paul’s apostleship; and
2. The nature of the gospel and the sufficiency of faith in Christ for full salvation. This gives the order of the first two and main parts of the epistle. A third section is added of a moral and hortatory nature. The contents of the epistle may be thus analysed:—

I. INTRODUCTORY ADDRESS.—

1. The apostolic salutation (Galatians 1:1-5).

2. The Galatians’ defection (Galatians 1:6-10).

II. PERSONAL APOLOGIA: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL RETROSPECT.—The apostle’s teaching derived from God and not man, as proved by the circumstances of:

1. His education (Galatians 1:13-14).

2. His conversion (Galatians 1:15-17).

3. His intercourse with the other apostles (Galatians 1:18-24, Galatians 2:1-10).

4. His conduct in the controversy with Peter at Antioch (Galatians 2:11-14). The subject of which controversy was the supersession of the law by Christ (Galatians 2:15-21).

III. DOGMATIC APOLOGIA: INFERIORITY OF JUDAISM, OR LEGAL CHRISTIANITY, TO THE DOCTRINE OF FAITH.—

1. The Galatians bewitched into retrogression from a spiritual system into a carnal system (Galatians 3:1-5).

2. Abraham himself a witness to the efficacy of faith (Galatians 3:6-9).

3. Faith in Christ alone removes the curse which the law entails (Galatians 3:10-14).

4. The validity of the promise unaffected by the law (Galatians 3:15-18).

5. Special pædagogic function of the law (Galatians 3:19-29).

6. The law a state of tutelage (Galatians 4:1-7).

7. Meanness and barrenness of mere ritualism (Galatians 4:8-11).

8. The past zeal of the Galatians contrasted with their present coldness (Galatians 4:12-20).

9. The allegory of Isaac and Ishmael (Galatians 4:21-31).

IV. HORTATORY APPLICATION OF THE FOREGOING.—

1. Christian liberty excludes Judaism (Galatians 5:1-6).

2. The Judaising intruders (Galatians 5:7-12).

3. Liberty not licence, but love (Galatians 5:13-15).

4. The works of the flesh and of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26).

5. The duty of sympathy (Galatians 6:1-5).

6. The duty of liberality (Galatians 6:6-10).

V. AUTOGRAPH CONCLUSION.—

1. The Judaisers’ motive (Galatians 6:12-13).

2. The apostle’s motive (Galatians 6:14-15).

3. His parting benediction and claim to be freed from further annoyance (Galatians 6:16-18). (Findlay and Sanday.)