Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, April 23rd, 2024
the Fourth Week after Easter
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
Galatians 5

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verse 1

Galatians 5:1. For freedom did Christ make (or set) us free: stand firm, therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage. [1] This exhortation is the inferential close of the argumentative, and a suitable beginning of the hortative, part of the Epistle. Some editors and commentators put the verse, either in whole or in part, at the end of chap. 4. Paul contrasts Christian freedom with Jewish bondage, and urges the Galatians to hold fast to the former, and not to relapse into the latter, or to exchange one form of slavery (their native heathenism) with another (Judaism). Hence ‘again.’ ‘Freedom’ is the outcome of the preceding discussion, and is emphatically put first ‘For, or ‘unto freedom’ (better than ‘ with freedom,’ although the Greek admits both), i.e., in order that we might be and remain free. It is, of course, not carnal but spiritual freedom, freedom from the curse and bondage of the law, secured to the believer as a permanent condition by the vicarious death of Christ, which satisfied the demands of Divine justice and saved us from wrath. This freedom implies the consciousness of the full pardon of our sins, a ready and direct access to the throne of grace, and all the privileges and responsibilities of a son in his father’s house. A Christian freeman is a grateful and cheerful servant of God, and a lord and king, though in chains, like Paul in Rome, who was a true freeman, while Nero on the throne was a miserable slave of his lusts. ‘Stand firm,’ in this liberty of an evangelical Christian. ‘Yoke of bondage,’ which bears down the neck and prevents free motion. Legalism is a burdensome slavery of the mind and conscience. Peter, in his speech at the Council of Jerusalem, likewise calls the law of Moses a ‘yoke,’ which ‘neither our fathers nor we could bear,’ Acts 15:10. Luther remarks on this verse: ‘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 for this 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, devil.’ Calvin: ‘Paul reminds them that they ought not to despise a freedom so precious. And certainly it is an invaluable blessing, in defence of which it is our duty to fight even to death. If men lay upon our shoulders an unjust burden, it may be borne; but if they endeavor to bring our conscience into bondage , we must resist valiantly, even to death.’

[1] This is upon the whole the best reading (adopted by Dense), Lachmann, Tischendorf, Exodus 8:0, Meyer). The MSS. and versions vary considerably, although the sense is not essentially altered. The received text reads literally: ‘Stand firm therefore in (or, in respect to) the freedom with which (or, for which) Christ made us free, and be not,’ etc. (τῇ ἐλευθερίᾳ οὖν, ᾗ Χριστὸς ἡμᾶς ἠλευθέρωσε, στήκετε). But the oldest MSS. ( א B, etc.) put ‘therefore’ (οὖν) after ‘stand’ (στήκετε), and omit ‘with which’ (ᾗ). The punctuation is a matter of interpretation.

Verses 1-12

Exhortation to Steadfastness in Christian Freedom, and Warning against Legal Bondage.

Here begins the practical part of the Epistle, consisting of exhortations and warnings appropriate to the occasion. First, the Apostle exhorts them to hold fast their spiritual freedom which they enjoy in Christ, and not to relapse again into legal bondage.

Verse 2

Galatians 5:2. Behold, I, Paul, say unto you, that if ye be circumcised (suffer yourselves to be circumcised), Christ will profit you nothing. Your course is pot only foolish, but dangerous, yea ruinous. A circumcised man may become a Christian, but a Christian who deliberately undergoes circumcision, becomes a Jew (a ‘proselyte of righteousness’) and virtually trusts to the law for salvation, and not to Christ ‘Behold’ rouses attention. ‘I, Paul’ interposes the apostolic authority, in opposition to the Judaizing teachers who taught that circumcision was necessary to make them full Christians and to insure salvation. ‘If ye be circumcised,’ or ‘submit to circumcision,’ as a term of salvation; some had probably done so already. ‘Christ will profit you nothing;’ the future marks the certain result of this Judaizing course. Luther: ‘If St. Paul can venture to pass so terrible a judgment against the law and circumcision which God himself has given, what kind of judgment would he utter upon the chaff and the dross of men’s ordinances? Wherefore this text is such a thunder-clap, that by right the whole papal realm should be astounded and terrified.’

Verse 3

Galatians 5:3. N ay, I testify again to every man that is circumcised (suffers himself to be circumcised), that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Circumcision is an initiatory rite by which the person circumcised becomes a Jew, and assumes the solemn obligation to keep the whole law of Moses, moral and ritual; just as the baptismal vow is a pledge of obedience to the gospel of Christ. The sacramental rite implies all the responsibilities and duties as well as privileges of membership. ‘I testify,’ I bear witness, I solemnly assert as in court (In classical Greek the verb usually means to summon as a witness, to call to witness.) ‘Again’ refers to ‘I say’ in Galatians 5:2 . ‘ To every man,’ without exception, stronger than the preceding general ‘ye.’

Verse 4

Galatians 5:4. Ye are out off from Christ all ye who are being (or, would be) justified by (the) law; y e are fallen away from grace. ‘ Ye are cut off from Christ,’ completely separated from Him. The Greek verb means to be annulled, to be done away with. Your union with Christ was dissolved and came to nothing in the moment when you sought your justification in the law. ‘Ye are fallen away from grace,’ not totally and finally (in which case the warning ; would be useless), but for the time being. Looking to God’s promise and faithfulness, our salvation is sure; looking to our weakness and temptations, all is doubtful, unless we watch and pray without ceasing.

Verse 5

Galatians 5:5. For we, by the Spirit, from faith wait eagerly for the hope of righteousness. ‘For’ introduces an argument from the opposite for the judgment passed in Galatians 5:4 against those who seek justification by the law. ‘By the Spirit,’ the Holy Spirit, who is the Divine source of faith and spiritual life in us. ‘From faith,’ which is the subjective source of our expectation. ‘Wait eagerly,’ or persistently, patiently. The hope of the Christian does not decline, but increase until the time of fruition. Comp. Romans 8:19; Romans 8:23; Romans 8:25; 1 Corinthians 1:7; Philippians 3:20. ‘For the hope of righteousness,’ the righteousness hoped for by us as a possession that is secured here by faith, but extends into eternity and involves the bliss and glory of the future life. Comp. Romans 8:30. Others take ‘hope’ as equivalent to the crown of glory which awaits the justified as their reward. The passage affords no aid to the doctrine of a gradual increase of justification, which, as Meyer says here, ‘is entirely un-Pauline. Justification does not, like sanctification, unfold itself and increase, but it has as its normal consequence sanctification through the Spirit, which is given to him who is justified by faith. Thus Christ is to us righteousness and sanctification. 1 Corinthians 1:30.’

Verse 6

Galatians 5:6. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith working (or operative) through love. A most important passage both doctrinally and practically, a remedy against sectarianism, and a key for the solution of many bitter controversies in the history of the Church. Paul positively condemned circumcision as a term of justification and salvation; now he qualifies the condemnation, viewing circumcision as a mere outward form and accidental distinction. A Jewish Christian and a Gentile Christian are equal before God; the circumcision of the one is no advantage, and the uncircumcision of the other is no disadvantage: all depends upon their union with Christ. Comp. Galatians 6:15; 1 Corinthians 7:18-20. ‘For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision.’ May we not add in the very spirit of Paul? ‘neither episcopacy nor presbytery, neither presbytery nor independency, neither immersion nor sprinkling, neither Calvinism nor Arminianism, neither Catholicism nor Protestantism, nor any other isms, however important in their place, are of any account, when compared with the fundamental difference between faith and infidelity, between Christ and anti-Christ. Heaven will embrace members of all creeds and sects, and the sole condition of entrance will be ‘faith working through love.’ The Greek verb ἐ νεργο ῦ μαι here translated ‘working,’ or ‘operative,’ has in the New Testament always the middle sense (comp. Rom 8:5 ; 2 Corinthians 1:6; Col 1:29 ; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; James 5:16). The passive rendering: ‘wrought’ or ‘made energetic through love,’ must be abandoned. [1] Paul unites here the three cardinal virtues, faith, hope (Galatians 5:5), and love. In this triad of Christian graces ‘consists the whole of Christianity’ (Bengel).

[1] Advocated by some of the fathers and Roman Catholic commentators in support of the doctrine of ‘ fides caritalte fermata,’ for which the passage is quoted by the Council of Trent in the decree on justification (Sess. vi, ch. 7). Windischmann, a modern R. C. commentator on Galatians, gives up the passive meaning, but still dings to the Tridentine use of the passage against the Protestant doctrine of Justification by faith only.

The sentence, ‘faith working through love,’ reconciles the doctrine of Paul with that of James. [1] Comp. Galatians 6:15; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:0 Corinthians 13; 1 Timothy 1:5; James 2:22. Here is the basis for a final settlement of the controversy on the doctrine of justification. Romanism (following exclusively the language of James) teaches justification by faith and works; Protestantism (on the authority of Paul): justification by faith alone; St. Paul and St. James combined: justification and salvation by faith working through love. Man is justified by faith alone, but faith remains not alone, it is the fruitful mother of good works, which are summed up in love to God and love to men. Faith and love are as inseparable as light and heat in the sun. Christ’s merits are the objective and meritorious ground of justification, faith (as the organ of appropriation) is the subjective condition, love or good works are the necessary evidence; without love faith is dead, according to James, or no faith at all, according to Paul. A great deal of misunderstanding in this and other theological controversies has arisen from the different use of terms.

[2] ‘Lightfoot:’ These words bridge the gulf which seems to separate the language of St. Paul and St. James. Both assert a principle of practical energy, as opposed to a barren inactive theory.’

Verse 7

Galatians 5:7. Ye were ruining bravely. The martial and heroic spirit of Paul often compares the course of Christian life with the running of a race in the stadium. Comp. Galatians 2:2; Php 3:14 ; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:7.

Verse 8

Galatians 5:8. Of him that calleth you, God; comp. note on Galatians 1:6; and Philippians 3:13, ‘the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.’ The Father draws to the Son by the Spirit through the gospel.

Verse 9

Galatians 5:9. A little leaven loaveneth the whole lump. A proverbial expression for the all-pervading influence of a good or bad principle. Here used in a bad sense, as 1 Corinthians 5:6 and Mark 8:15, and often by rabbinical writers. The Judaizing doctrine of the necessity of circumcision poisons the whole system of Christian doctrine and practice. Others less aptly apply it to the persons of the false teachers who corrupt the mass of the people. In a good sense the figure of the leaven is used of the kingdom of heaven which penetrates all the faculties and powers of man and of society. Matthew 13:32; Luke 13:21.

Verse 10

Galatians 5:10. I have confidence toward ( or in regard to) you in the Lord, etc. Paul hopes that the Galatians will return from their error, and this hope is grounded in his communion with Christ in whom he lived and moved. Comp. Philippians 2:24; 2 Thessalonians 3:4; Romans 14:14.

He that troubleth you, all the false teachers. Comp. Galatians 5:12; 2 Corinthians 11:4.

Shall bear his judgment, God’s judgment of condemnation. Comp. Romans 2:3; Romans 13:2; 1 Corinthians 11:29. The guilty must ‘bear’ the sentence as a burden.

whosoever he be, whatever be his character and position. (Jerome thinks even of Peter, but without any good reason; for Peter agreed with Paul in principle and failed only in practice at Antioch.)

Verse 11

Galatians 5:11. If I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then hath the offence (or stumbling block) of the cross been done away. The first ‘still’ refers to the time since his conversion from Judaism. If circumcision is preached as a condition of salvation, then the cross, that is, the crucifixion, the doctrine of salvation by the atoning death of Christ, has lost its offensive character to the Jews, and there is no further reason for persecution by the Jews. The false teachers had probably spread the malicious report that Paul himself preached circumcision, because he practised it in the case of Timothy who had a Jewish mother (Acts 16:1-3); but this was exceptional and a measure of expediency and charity, not a surrender of the principle.

Verse 12

Galatians 5:12. I wish that they who are unsettling you would even go on to abscission; that the circumcisers would not stop with the half measure of circumcision, but go beyond it even to abscission or mutilation (make themselves eunuchs), like the priests of Cybele. A severe irony similar to the one in Philippians 3:2-3, where Paul calls the boasters of ‘ circumcision’ the ‘ concision.’ Self-mutilation was a recognized form of heathen worship, especially in Pessinus in Galatia, and therefore quite familiar to the readers. Thus by glorying in the flesh the Galatians relapsed into their former heathenism. The words may be explained: ‘cut themselves off’ from your communion, but the interpretation above given agrees best with the meaning of the verb, and the ‘even’ (which points to something more than circumcision), and is maintained by the Greek fathers and the best modern commentators. The translation of the E. V. ‘were even cut off,’ i.e., excommunicated, is ungrammatical (the Greek verb is in the middle, not the passive mood), and due to false delicacy. Christianity has abolished the revolting practice of self-mutilation, so that even the word is offensive; but in the days of Paul it was still in full force in Galatia, and is continued among Mohammedans who employ many eunuchs (especially in harems). Paul had evidently the dangerous power of sarcasm, but he used it very sparingly, and only in a worthy cause.

Verse 13

Galatians 5:13. For ye were called unto freedom, brethren. The word ‘for’ justifies the indignant scorn of the preceding verse. ‘Unto’ denotes the object of the Christian calling.

Only (turn) not your freedom into in occasion (or, opportunity) for the flesh. A sudden check: freedom, but not license. True freedom is self-government and inseparable from law; it is a law to itself. How often has the word freedom been abused and perverted into its diabolical caricature! So also the truly Christian ideas of equality and fraternity. Gentile churches, like that of Corinth, were especially liable to the abuse of freedom and sensual excesses. The verb turn or make or use must be supplied (as often in animated passages of the classical writers). ‘An occasion,’ a starting-point, an Opportunity (comp. Romans 8:8; Romans 8:11; 2 Corinthians 5:12; 2 Corinthians 11:12; 1 Timothy 5:14).

But by love serve one another. By faith we are lords, by love we are servants of all. Show your freedom by love, and your love by service. This kind of bondage is honorable and delightful. ‘To serve God is true freedom’ (Augustine).

Verses 13-15

Warning’ against the Abuse of Freedom, and Exhortation to Brotherly Love.

In the spirit of true Christian wisdom and moderation, the Apostle now warns the readers against the danger of abusing Christian freedom and running it into antinomian license. This passage is chiefly directed to those Galatians who remained faithful to the free gospel as preached by Paul, but were exposed to the danger of running into the opposite extreme of lawlessness.

Verse 14

Galatians 5:14. For the entire law is (hath been and is) fulfilled in one word (even), in this: Thou s halt love thy neighbor as thyself. The law commands supreme love to God (in the first table), and love to our neighbor as to ourselves (in the second table). Love to our neighbor springs necessarily from love to God, and is impossible without it. The teaching of Christ (Matthew 22:39) and of the Apostle (comp. Romans 13:8-9) ere perfectly agree. ‘The neighbor.’ In the Hebrew law, Leviticus 19:18, probably restricted to the Jewish people, but by Christ extended to the universal brotherhood of men. Comp. Matthew 5:43, and the parable of the good Samaritan, Luke 10:29.

Verse 15

Galatians 5:15. But if ye bite and devour one another, like wild beasts. How applicable this to all sectarian and partisan strifes which turn the church into a battle-field and impair its force against the common enemy!

Verse 16

Galatians 5:16. Paul returns to the warning in Galatians 5:13, not to abuse the freedom for an occasion to the flesh.

Walk by the Spirit, according to the rule and direction of the Holy Spirit who is the higher conscience and controlling principle of the Christian. Comp. Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:2.

And ye shall in no wise fulfil the lust of the flesh. The Holy Spirit and the sinful flesh are so antagonistic and irreconcilable that to follow the one is to resist and defeat the other. The ‘flesh’ is here, as in Galatians 5:13; Galatians 5:17; Galatians 5:19, and often in Paul (also John 3:6), used in a moral sense, and designates the fallen, carnal, sinful nature of man. It is not confined to sensuality, but embraces also the evil dispositions of the mind (Galatians 5:20). It must not be confounded with ‘body;’ it uses and abuses the body as its organ, but the body is good in itself, and intended to become the organ of the regenerate spirit of man and the temple of the Holy Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; comp. Galatians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16. (Comp. Excursus on Romans 7:0, and the elaborate discussion of Wieseler on Galatians 3:13, pp. 442-455.) The antagonism between the carnal nature of man and the Holy Spirit of God is one of the fundamental ideas in Paul’s psychology. The Gnostics and Manichaeans carried it to the extreme of dualism between mind and matter; but this is a heretical perversion. Paul’s antagonism is moral, not physical, and rests on the recognition of the body as substantially Rood and redeemable by the same power of God which redeems the soul.

Verses 16-25

Walking by the Spirit. The Works of the Flesh and the Fruit of the Spirit.

Paul exhorts the Galatians to lead a truly Christian life under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and contrasts the vices of the flesh with the graces of the Spirit. Such exhortations and contrasts are impossible on heathen soil, or in the sphere of natural morality, and reveal the lofty spirituality of the Christian religion.

Verse 17

Galatians 5:17. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit (strives) against the flesh. There is a conflict between reason and appetite, between conscience and depravity, between the higher and lower aspirations, between heaven and hell, going on in every man who is roused to a sense of duty and responsibility; but this conflict becomes most serious under the awakening influence of the Holy Spirit (who is meant here), and results in the triumph of one principle and the defeat of the other. Comp. Romans 7:4 ff. ‘The strife of the Spirit against the flesh is an infallible token of regeneration and a state of grace, and is distinguished from the strife of the mere powers of reason in this that the former always wins the victory’ (Starke). ‘The state of the believer is conflict, but with final victory’ (Ellicott.) The natural man may acquire a Stoic virtue, and achieve a conquest over his lower appetites, but not over his pride, which rises all the more powerful on the ruin of vulgar passions.

Verse 18

Galatians 5:18. But if ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under (the) law. Comp. Romans 8:14: ‘As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.’ The Spirit ‘leads’ and guides men as moral and responsible beings, but does not drive or force them; hence it is possible to resist and to quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19), to grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30), and even to blaspheme Him and thus to commit the unpardonable sin (Matthew 12:32). Paul’s conversion was sudden and radical, out not forced; he might have ‘kicked against the goads’ (Acts 26:14), although it was ‘hard’ (not impossible) for Him to do so. ‘Ye are not under the law,’ under the dominion of the law which threatens death and keeps the conscience in constant terror. The law is a restraint of the flesh; to be free from the flesh is to be free from the restraint and curse of the law. The Spirit leads us into the fulfilment of the law of love (Galatians 5:14), and the law ceases to be a yoke for trembling slaves, and becomes a rule for loving and grateful children and freemen. Luther: ‘So great is the power and dominion of the Spirit that the law cannot accuse the godly. For Christ is our righteousness whom we apprehend by faith. He is without sin, and therefore the law cannot accuse Him. As long as we cleave fast unto Him, we are led by the Spirit and are free from the law.’

Verses 19-21

Galatians 5:19-21. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, of which kind (or such as) are. The practical test of the fruits by which a tree is known (comp. Matthew 7:16). ‘Manifest,’ plain and obvious to everybody. Paul does not sum at a complete and systematic catalogue of sins, but singles out those to which the Galatians from former habits and surroundings were specially exposed. He mentions (1) sins of sensuality or sins against ourselves: adultery [omitted in the best MSS.], fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness (comp. 2 Corinthians 12:21); these were so common among all the heathen that no ancient moralist, not even Socrates, or Plato, or Cicero, absolutely condemned them (except adultery, because it interferes with the rights of a husband), and that they were even sanctioned by religion and connected with the worship of Venus or Aphrodite. The difference between Christian and heathen morality in this respect is like the difference between day and night Paul condemns fornication as a prostitution and desecration of the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:15-20; 1 Corinthians 3:16). (2) Spiritual sins against God, which are likewise characteristic of heathenism: idolatry, the worship of false gods (and all idolatrous practices), and sorcery, or magic, ‘a secret tampering with the powers of evil,’ usually associated with open idolatry (comp. Acts 19:19; Revelation 21:8). (3) Sins against our neighbor, or various violations of brotherly love in feeling and action: hatreds (or enmities), strife, rivalry (or emulation), outbursts of wrath, factions, divisions (not seditions), parties (not heresies, in the later doctrinal sense), envyings, murders (comp. 2 Corinthians 12:20; Romans 1:29). ‘Murders’ is omitted by the best MSS. (4) Sins of intemperance, very common among the Celtic nations: drunkenness, revellings, and such like (comp. Romans 13:13; 1 Peter 4:3).

Verse 21

Galatians 5:21. Of which I forewarn you, as I did tell you before, on my former visits (Galatians 1:9; Galatians 4:13; Galatians 4:16), when I preached to you the gospel which is death to all forms of immorality, and demands conformity to the holy character of Christ. They who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God, unless they be converted and sanctified. A hard and terrible word, yet most true (comp. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Corinthians 15:50; Revelation 22:15). Heaven is the abode of absolute purity, and nothing unclean can enter therein. ‘Without sanctification no man shall see the Lord.’ Hebrews 12:14.

Verses 22-23

Galatians 5:22-23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, benignity, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance. A string of pearls. One ‘fruit,’ in distinction of the many ‘works of the flesh,’ indicates the unity of the spiritual graces which are comprehended in love (Galatians 5:14; comp. Ephesians 5:9 ‘the fruit of the light,’ and Galatians 5:11 ‘the unfruitful works of darkness).’ ‘The fruit is produced by the grace of God; the works of the flesh spring from ourselves’ (Chrysostom). The list differs widely from pagan catalogues of virtues which have no place for love, humility, and meekness, joy and peace, nor any of the more delicate graces of the Spirit of God. There are four groups: (1.) ‘Love,’ the fundamental Christian grace which comprehends all others and ‘holds heaven and earth in its embrace.’ (2.) ‘Joy’ and ‘peace,’ the fundamental state of the Christian, his inward happiness, cheerfulness, and tranquility which results from the remission of sin, the reconciliation to God, and the prospect of heaven. No one can be truly happy in this world who is not sure of eternal happiness in the world to come. (3.) ‘Long suffering,’ ‘benignity,’ ‘goodness,’ ‘faithfulness’ (or fidelity), ‘meekness,’ are various forms of unselfish charity towards our fellow-men. ‘Long-suffering’ denotes patient endurance under injuries; ‘benignity,’ kindly disposition; ‘goodness,’ active benevolence; ‘faithfulness’ (not ‘faith’ towards God), is here fidelity, trustfulness in our dealings with others (‘love believeth all things,’ 1 Corinthians 13:7), in opposition to suspicion and distrust; ‘meekness’ (or gentleness), a mild and patient temper which bears and overcomes injuries (comp. Matthew 5:5; Psalms 37:11). (4.)’ Self-control’ (temperance) refers to our conduct towards ourselves, and embraces moral self-government and moderation in all things, in opposition to carnal self-indulgence and intemperance in eating and drinking (comp. Acts 24:25; 1 Corinthians 7:9). Luther: ‘Jerome expounds this of virginity only, as though they that are married could not be chaste; or as though the Apostle did write these things only to virgins. In the first and second chapter to Titus, he warns all bishops, young women, and married folks, both man and wife, to be chaste and pure.’

Against such (things) there is no law (of restraint). The law forbids and restrains sin and vice, but not the works of the Spirit, on the contrary it enjoins them; comp. Galatians 5:18, ‘If ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under (the restraining and condemning power of) the law;’ and 1 Timothy 1:9, ‘Law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and unruly, for the ungodly and sinners.’ False interpretations: ‘Such persons the law does not condemn;’ or ‘Such persons need no law.’ The Greek word for ‘such’ is neuter, and refers to the preceding virtues; as ‘such like,’ Galatians 5:21, refers to the preceding vices.

Verse 24

Galatians 5:24. Now they that are of Christ Jesus did crucify the flesh with its passions and lusts. Union with Christ is a complete separation from sin; hence the baptismal formula of renunciation of the flesh, the world, and the devil, and devotion to the service of Christ Conversion is death of the old man and birth of the new. ‘Passions’ are passive, ‘lusts’ active, vices. The destruction of the old man of sin is an imitation of the crucifixion, as the birth of the new man of righteousness corresponds to the resurrection of Christ (comp. Galatians 2:20; Galatians 6:14; Romans 6:4-6; Colossians 3:5). The Greek aorist represents this ethical and subjective crucifixion as an act accomplished in the past at the time of conversion and baptism (comp. Galatians 3:27); but in the nature of the case it is continued from day to day, as long as sin and temptation remain.

Verse 25

Galatians 5:25. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Application to the Galatians, Paul included. To live and to walk are related here as condition and action, or as the inward and the outward life. If we live in the higher element of the Holy Spirit, we must also show it by a corresponding conduct (comp. Galatians 5:16; Romans 8:5-6). The dative in Greek here denotes the rule or direction (as Galatians 6:16). ‘By,’ in English, has both the instrumental and the normal force.

Verse 26

Galatians 5:26. Let us not become vainglorious, etc. This is the opposite of humility (Philippians 2:3). ‘St. Paul works round again to the subject of Galatians 5:15, and repeats his warning. It is clear that something had occurred which alarmed him on this point’ (Lightfoot). Vanity and quarrelsomeness, self-exaltation, and self-seeking were among the darling sins of the Gauls. But as Luther says, ‘love of vainglory is a common vice all the world over in all conditions. In the smallest village there are some peasants who deem themselves wiser and better than the rest, and like to be looked up to. But nowhere is this vice so harmful as in the officers of the church.’ Calvin remarks: ‘It is not lawful for us to glory but in God alone. Every other kind of glorying is pure vanity. Mutual provocations and envyings are the daughters of ambition.’ Galatians 5:26 is the connecting link between ch. 5 and ch. 6.

Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Galatians 5". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/scn/galatians-5.html. 1879-90.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile