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Monday, June 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Galatians 5

Hawker's Poor Man's CommentaryPoor Man's Commentary

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Verse 1


The Apostle makes some very sweet Conclusions in this Chapter, from the Doctrine he had established, in the former. Towards the Conclusion, he draws a striking Contrast, between the Works of the Flesh, and the Fruits of the Spirit.

Verses 1-4

(1) ¶ Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (2) Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. (3) For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. (4) Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

I admire the manner, in which Paul exhorts the Church to stand firm in Christ, after having so fully proved, in the foregoing Chapters, the complete, and blessed justification of the Church in Christ, as perfectly detached from, and unconnected with any, and every law-work, before God. The liberty Paul speaks of, is the perfect, and complete freedom, Christ hath by himself attained; for his whole Church and People, by his obedience, blood-shedding, and death. He hath, as the great Head, Surety, and Husband of his people, redeemed them from the curse of the law, being made a curse for them. And therefore, as the Apostle saith elsewhere; the law of the Spirit of life in Christ JESUS hath made every child of God free, from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2 .

Reader! pause over the sweet subject of liberty in Christ, for it is sweet. Christ is the Church's Husband, Head, and Surety. And as such, hath answered every demand of law. Christ also hath paid every penalty, for every breach of the law, by his death. Hence, both law and justice are satisfied; and the Lord hath brought the prisoners out of captivity, as the everlasting Covenant agreed for. Isaiah 49:8-9 . The whole Church of God, therefore, and every individual soul of that Church, is delivered from the curse of the law; from guilt, from sin, from the accusations of Satan, the alarms of conscience, unbelief, and all the whole train of evils, of a fallen state. And it is the privilege of all the Church of God, to behold themselves in Christ, perfectly holy in him. For Christ and his Church being One, what Christ is in God's sight, so must the Church be. And, as God hath declared himself well pleased in him, the Church is included in this view; and is holy and without blame before him in love. Oh! the blessedness of an union, and oneness with Christ!

But Reader! while called upon to stand fast in this liberty, wherewith Christ hath made all his people free, and never more to seek the smallest recommendation from the works of the law; let no child of God be tempted to make a mistake in his expectations, concerning this liberty. Every child of God, regenerated by the Holy Ghost, is fully, freely, and completely holy in Christ before God, and everlastingly accepted in him: nevertheless, as he still carries about with him a body of sin, and death, which is altogether unholy, and virtually all that is evil; he must not be surprised, that he is still the subject of sin, in his flesh. He will feel the assaults of sin, he will groan under them: he will find, that often when he would do good, evil is present with him. Jesus hath freed him from all the condemnation of sin, but not from the sorrows of it. Jesus hath conquered sin, death, hell, and the grave: but yet his people shall know, and feel, by the body of sin they still wear, as long as they are in this time-state, the dreadful evil of sin, by the effects; the awful terrors of Satan, by his fiery darts; and the tremendous prospects which are in death, and hell, and the grave, had not Jesus destroyed their everlasting power, by his victory over all. Oh! the unspeakable blessedness of the liberty, wherewith Christ hath made his people free! Precious Lord Jesus! it is said by thy servant the Apostle, that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty: 2 Corinthians 3:17 . Oh! then, ever give to my poor soul this liberty; that as thou hast set me free from the law of sin and death, and loosed my bands, I may daily, hourly, minutely, have liberty of access, to thy pardon-office, and throne of grace; and rejoice in hope of the glory of God! Romans 5:1-5 .

I wish it were perfectly understood, by men professing the great truths of the Gospel, that what Paul here saith of circumcision, is equally applicable to any, and to everything, which may be attempted to be joined with Christ, for salvation. Circumcision was a solemn ordinance of God. But it evidently pointed to Christ, and in Christ was completed. The observance of circumcision, after Christ had fulfilled the whole law, and by his death done away all the penal effects of the law; was, to all intents and purposes, saying, that Christ had not fulfilled the law; neither was his death effectual for salvation, without some additions. But, if the submitting to the rite of circumcision implied this; so doth every other thing, which men join with Christ, as in their view, essential to salvation. And yet, what multitudes are there, and even in what are called Gospel churches, where they mingle up a variety of other things, which unhumbled pride, or weakness, and ignorance, prompt men to substitute, to join with the Lord Jesus, as so many means of salvation. Alas! how fully do all such testify their total unacquaintedness, with the plague of their own heart? And yet if possible, much worse; how ignorant must they be, of the Person, glory, and infinitely precious merits, of the blood-shedding, and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ!

I only detain the Reader in this place to remark, on what the Apostle saith, of falling from grace, that this hath no respect whatever, to the childish idea of some men, who would insinuate the possibility of falling from grace. The Apostle is here speaking of the falling from the profession of faith only, in Christ. Paul had been uniformly teaching the Church of Galatia of justification only in Christ. There was some of the hearers of these grand truths, nominal Christians only, who sought to the law for justification; and probably there were some others, truly regenerated, who leaned rather to the mingling system, of Law and Gospel, as hath been in all ages. Now, saith Paul to all such, whoever are justified (or suppose themselves to be justified, for it can be but supposition,) by the law; the grace in Jesus, ye are fallen from. But what hath this to do with the grace of God's elect? If, on this passage, and every other to be met with in the Bible, men would try it by this unerring standard, the decision must be infallible. The new-birth, or regeneration, is the only criterion of grace. No man, but he that is born again, can be said to be a partaker in grace. Everything short of the new-birth, is short of all. And, therefore, this, and this only, becomes the grand conclusion. Is the man born again? If so, he cannot fall from grace. For the Holy Ghost saith, by Peter, he is thereby made a partaker of the divine nature. 2 Peter 1:4 . And it were little short of blasphemy to say, that he that is made a partaker of the divine nature, can fall away, and lose that spiritual life, which can never die. 1 Peter 1:23 . But there may, and the Lord only knoweth how often there is, great flaming professions, much zeal in appearance, for converting the world, by men unconverted themselves. And therefore, when such blazing Comets disappear, and go out in darkness, the world which behold, call this falling from grace, concerning men who never were in grace. Those hypocrites Paul hath noticed, Hebrews 6:4-6 . were of this description. There is not a word said in this passage, amidst much outside godliness, of any inward grace. Not a syllable to intimate, that the work of God the Holy Ghost, had passed upon either of their hearts, by regeneration. So that, let the Reader be always on the lookout for the new-birth in all high professions, void of vital godliness, and he will be sure to discover, as fire manifests tinsel from pure gold, that this blessed discriminating work of God, hath never passed upon persons of this complexion. See Hebrews 6:0 . and Commentary.

Verse 5

(5) For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

I detain the Reader at this verse, just to make a short remark. The waiting for the Spirit to make manifest Christ's righteousness to the soul of the believer, is a beautiful testimony of God the Holy Ghost's grace, upon this occasion. I hardly know a passage in the Bible, which so blessedly, and fully makes known, this great office-work of the Holy Ghost. It appears then most decidedly from hence, that until God the Holy Ghost, by this his special act, hath fixed our minds upon Christ's Person and righteousness, so as to make us completely satisfied with both; and that we have done with every other method of justification, and are delighted with this, as God himself is delighted: the full consent of soul is not obtained. But when God the Spirit, who keeps us in waiting for it, and at length makes it known; we then rest with full assurance of faith, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Reader! do you enter with my soul, into an apprehension of this precious, precious work, of God the Holy Ghost? Oh! then, think how sweetly the words and promise of Jesus are here, as in a thousand other instances fulfilled, when he said of the blessed Spirit: he shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. John 16:14 .

Verses 6-15

(6) For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. (7) Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? (8) This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. (9) A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. (10) I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be. (11) And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased. (12) I would they were even cut off which trouble you. (13) ¶ For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. (14) For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (15) But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

Great part of what is here said, hath particular respect to the Church of Galatia, for the time then being. On these subjects, I always use shortness. And the many passages, here and there interspersed in this paragraph, are so plain as to need no comment.

Verses 16-18

(16) This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. (17) For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (18) But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

The Apostle hath very blessedly shown, within the compass of those few verses, what in all the other parts of his writing, when discoursing on the same subject, he hath most completely proved; namely, that when from the Adam-nature of the fall, a child of God is regenerated, and born again; the two natures of spirit, and flesh, do manifest themselves in this man, as plainly, as any two opposite, principles in nature, such as fire and water, light and darkness, good and evil. So that, while the child of God walks in the spirit, the lusts of the flesh are kept under: and, on the other hand, the reverse will be the consequence, where restraining grace doth not keep under, the clamorous demands of the flesh.

The general idea of a partial regeneration, both of soul and body, on the new-birth of a believer, is totally done away, by what God the Holy Ghost here speaks by the Apostle. And, if men would but take Scripture simply as it is, and not bring it by partial quotations, to suit any favorite opinion they themselves have adopted, they would be led, under divine teaching, from such plain words as Paul here useth, to see the truth, that the truth might make them free.

Here are brought into one view, flesh and spirit: the old man unrenewed, and the new man created in Christ Jesus. They are here said to be in direct opposition to each other. The flesh lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. And this to such a degree, that each finds the opposition. I pray the Reader, (and especially if conscious of his regeneration,) to remark this. For while every child of God who is regenerated, knows daily, to his sorrow, that his flesh is making everlasting war against his spirit, so that he cannot do the things he would; he ought to take the comfort from what the other side of the subject as plainly, and as fully brings, that through grace, the oppositions his renewed nature makes to the wishes of the flesh, prevents many times the gratification. So that by the way, (and I mention it on this account,) the child of God ought to take the comfort of it, and give God the glory, that the spirit hath its seasons of conquering also against the flesh; while he often mourns at the triumphs of the flesh over the spirit.

It is the language of Jesus himself, that what is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the spirit, is spirit. John 3:6 . There is no work wrought by the Spirit on the flesh. It is the same as it was when born, and so remains till it returns to its original dust. For it is then, sown a natural body. 1 Corinthians 15:44 . Whereas, if it were renewed, or as some speak, in part renewed; that part, however small, or great, would be by so much spiritual. And how then could it become liable to corruption, and be sown at death a natural body? Moreover, the Apostle speaking of himself many a year after his conversion, that is, after his regeneration, declared, that in him, that is, in his flesh dwelled no good thing. Romans 7:18 . A thing impossible to have said, if any part of his body had been regenerated. And on what ground could the Apostle talk of changing at the coming of Christ the vile body of himself, and the Lord's people, if God the Holy Ghost had, though but in part, taken away that vileness? Philippians 3:21 . How much more agreeable to Scripture, to experience, and to the uniform confession of the faithful, as to the indwelling sin of the body, is it to suppose, that at regeneration, the spirit only is renewed, and the flesh remains unchanged: that while the Lord the Holy Ghost makes the spirit, which before was dead in trespasses and sins, perfectly alive in Christ, and as holy in Christ as it ever will be; the body still remains as carnal as ever, and will so remain, until after being sown in corruption at death: in the resurrection, this corruption will put on incorruption, and this mortal put on immortality? Reader! do not the everlasting struggles of flesh and spirit in the holiest of men, give in their united testimony, to these things?

Verses 19-26

(19) Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, (20) Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, (21) Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, (23) Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (24) And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. (25) If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (26) Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

The great improvement, as appears to me to be intended by the Holy Ghost, from this relation, of the different properties of flesh and spirit, is from them to consider, the different sources from whence they spring, and the cause, why they mark the different characters in which they appear. Let the Reader carefully observe, how the different expressions are worded. The one is called, the works of the flesh. The other, the fruits of the Spirit. In both instances, they are intended, to describe, what is, and must be, the result of the opposite state of unrenewed nature, and that which is quickened by grace. But the great object (if I do not err) intended, is to lead the child of God to trace effects to their cause, by beholding the distinguishing love of the Lord in the appointment.

The Reader will bear with me, while I say, that those sweet portions of Scripture, which mark the difference, between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not; are not properly used by the Lord's people, when looked at chiefly as our evidences, instead of being looked at as God's testimonies in Christ. It is not what we observe, or suppose that we observe, of fruits, and effects, which become the foundation of hope; but what Christ is, as our Head, and Representative in God's esteem. Experiences, are very well in their way; but they are never well, nor ever properly in the way, when we put them in Christ's way, and in the place of Christ. And whoever sends men to form a judgment of their state, as they stand before God, by consulting what they call the gracious dispositions of their own hearts, instead of sending them to the enjoyment of God's perfect approbation of the Church in Christ; is sending them to the shadow instead of the substance: so that, when at any time an intervention takes place to the substance, the shadow is instantly lost.

To make application of this doctrine, to the present statement of the Apostle. He gives the Church an awful catalogue of the lusts of the flesh, in the state and circumstances of every unregenerate man, born in the Adam-nature of original corruption, and remaining in it, uncalled, unsanctified by grace. These works he describes, are as naturally the production of our fallen state, as the sparks which fly upward from fire. They do not appear in equal violence in all, no more than the natural diseases of the body. But the root of each is in all; and proves an equal state of corruption in all. And, consequently, living, and dying in this unrenewed state before God; such characters cannot, as the Apostle decidedly speaks, inherit the kingdom of God. And the reason is obvious. All causes, must produce their own effect. And this is the natural effect of such a cause. And, awful as it is, when we see men sitting under the Gospel, and yet living regardless of all the truths they hear, while it serves to enhance to the Church the sovereignty of God's grace, it manifests no less the impossibility of anything rising above its source. The works of the flesh are manifest. They prove the state of an unrenewed nature. And men left in this state, are only left to the fruit of their own works. The cause here, as in every other instance, naturally produceth its own effect. He that soweth to the flesh, will of the flesh reap corruption. Galatians 6:8 .

On the other hand, the fruits of the Spirit; these as plainly are the result of an opposite principle: and they define the character of those born of God. But they differ widely from the works of the flesh, not only in their very nature and property, but also in their source and spring. The works of the flesh are a man's own. They arise from himself, and his own fallen nature. But the Apostle words his expression, when describing the productions of the Spirit, by calling them fruits. Hence, therefore, the child of God, though by distinguishing grace, he is made a partaker of the unspeakable gift; yet there is nothing of his, which he can call his own, in it. It is all received; and all free, unmerited, and on his part wholly undeserved. And hence, (to return to the original observation which I offered,) the child of God who looks at those fruits, more than as fruits, and overlooks the cause in the effect, taking comfort from evidences, instead of Christ alone; is by so much going off the ground, of real firmness in the faith. It is looking at Christ second-hand, when we look at him through our evidences. It is like what Paul elsewhere calls rudiments of the world; for they are rudiments of our out hearts, and not Christ. Colossians 2:8 . In a word, it is very blessed to trace the fruits of the Spirit as the Apostle hath here described them, in our daily walk and conversation: but all these, and ten thousand more, are not Christ. Precious Lord Jesus! thou alone art my portion, for time, and for eternity!

Verse 26


SWEET are the properties of a justified state in Christ. Lord! I would say, give me grace to stand fast in it. There is nothing changeable in my Lord. His Person, his love, his righteousness, his blood-shedding, his complete salvation; these are all the same; without shadow of turning. And wherefore then, should I turn aside and seek comfort elsewhere? Shall I not live upon Jesus? Shall ordinances, circumcision, or uncircumcision, prayers or tears, experience or unbelief, toss my soul about, as if righteousness came by the law? Oh! thou dear Lord! with these or without these, in means or without means, may I everlastingly know thee, live upon thee, rejoice in thee, as the Lord my righteousness!

And, oh! thou blessed Lord the Holy Ghost! cause me to enter into an apprehension of the Person, work, grace, and glory, of Jesus. Sweetly hast thou taught the Church, in this blessed Chapter, that it is through thee, the Church are to wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. Lord! cause my soul daily, hourly, to wait for that everlasting establishment in Christ, which doubts no more. Lord! on this Rock fix my soul! In Christ's Person, may my whole confidence centre. With the Person of Jesus, do thou, O Lord, cause my soul to be so enamored, that I may behold in him a greater, and more perfect righteousness to make me perfect before God, than all the righteousness of the whole creation of God. Let this view of Jesus, give a firmness to my faith, which nothing can shake. And, while the Lord the Spirit enables me to mortify the flesh with its affections, and lusts; let all the fruits of the Spirit testify, whose I am, and to whom I belong, as sweet testimonies and effects, while Christ alone is the cause, of all my salvation, and all my desire.

Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Galatians 5". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pmc/galatians-5.html. 1828.
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