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Bible Commentaries
Galatians 5

Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NTBurkitt's Expository Notes

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Verse 1

As if he had said "Since Christ by his death had purchased our freedom from the yoke and bondage of the ceremonial law, let us resolutely stand fast in this our Christian liberty, without subjecting ourselves again to circumcision, and the observation of the Mosaic rites."

Here note, 1. The servile condition of the Jewish church: they were under bondage, under a yoke of bondage. This servitude of theirs consisted in the vast number of their religious rites and observances, as to days and weeks, months, and years; in the multitude of their sacrifices of all sorts, which they were obliged every day to offer: in their frequent purifications and washings; in the strict distinctions they were obliged to make between clean and unclean meats; in the numerous rites and ceremonies they are required to observe at their marriages and burials, at bed and board, at home and abroad, nay, even in plowing, sowing, and reaping; so numerous were these observances, that they took up half their time, and were as burdensome as they were numerous.

Well might the apostle here call it a yoke of bondage, and elsewhere, a yoke which neither they nor their fathers were able to bear. Acts 15:10

Note, 2. The happy liberty and freedom from this intolerable yoke, purchased by Christ for the Christian church: Christ hath made us free. He by his obedience and death, has purchased this happy freedom for us, a freedom from ceremonial bondage, from sinful servitude and slavery; not from civil subjection, not from the yoke of new obedience, but from the obliging force of the ceremonial law, and the curse and irritating power of the moral law.

Note, 3. The Christians' duty with reference to this privilege, namely, to stand fast in the liberty which Christ has purchased for them, without obliging themselves to observe any part of the ceremonial law, which was now a servility perfectly unprofitable, and nothing else: stand fast in it; that is, maintain and defend it both in judgment and practice.

Verse 2

That is, "Behold, I Paul, your apostle, do positively declare, and expressly tell you, the Galatians, and all other Christians converted by me to Christianity, that if ye be circumcised, that is, join circumcision with the gospel as a thing necessary to justification and salvation, Christ's undertaking will profit you nothing; for embracing circumcision after Christ's coming, is virtually to deny and disown that he is come, and in effect to renounce and disclaim him; because at his coming the promise was fulfilled, and circumcision of its own nature ceased."

Learn hence, That for persons religiously to observe any of the rites of the ceremonial law, in obedience to any divine precept, or to join any thing with Christ, and faith in him, for the justification of a sinner before God, is a plain denial of Christ, and a disdaining of his ability and sufficiency to justify and save us: If ye be circumcised, verily, Christ shall profit you nothing.

Verse 3

He that urges the necessity of circumcision, is a debtor to the law, in a double respect, namely, in regard of duty, and in regard of penalty.

First, he is a debtor in regard of duty; because he that thinks himself bound to keep the whole ceremonial law, yea, and the whole moral law too, without deficiency, and that under the penalty of condemnation.

Again, Secondly, As he is a debtor in point of duty, so he must needs be a debtor in regard of penalty; because he is not able to keep any part of it perfectly.

Hence we may infer, 1. How endearing our obligations are to Christ, who as our Surety paid both these debts for us, namely, our debt of duty, and our debt of penalty to the law of God: by fulfilling all righteousness, he paid our debt of duty, and by suffering the punishment due to transgressors, he paid our debt of penalty.

We may also, infer, 2. That as he that is circumcised, is bound to keep the whole law; so he that is baptized, is obliged to obey all the commands of the gospel, to make conscience of the duties of both tables, as an argument of his sincerity, and as an ornament to his profession.

Verse 4

Here another argument is used, to show that believers are dead to the ceremonial law, and are by no means to expect justification by it: Whosoever of you says the apostle is justified by the law, that is, whosoever seeks and endeavours to be so justified, (for in reality none can in that manner be justified,) Christ is become of no effect unto such persons; that is, they renounce Christ, and disdain benefit by his death. And they are fallen from grace; that is, fallen from Christianity, and the covenant of grace; they have forfeited the grace of the gospel, by cleaving to the ceremonial law, they are fallen from the doctrine of grace delivered in the gospel, and Christ is become of no effect unto them.

Learn from hence, That such persons as do believe that faith in Christ alone is not sufficient to justification and acceptance with God, without the observation of the abrogated law, do in effect disown their relation to Christ, and disclaim all benefit by his death: Christ is become of none effect, &c.

Verse 5

That is, "We Christians, we believers, through the Spirit which we have received, and not by legal observances, do hope both for such a righteousness as will denominate and constitute us righteous in the sight of God, and also for the crown of righteousness in heaven, which now we wait and hope for here on earth."

Note, 1. That a believer does not value himself by what he has in hand, but by what he has in hope; his riches are not so much in present possession, as in future expectation: We wait for the hope: that is, for heaven, the good hoped for.

Note, 2. That none have either right to heaven, or can warrantably expect the enjoyments of heaven, who are destitute of righteousness; heaven is here called the hope of righteousness, that is, the rational hope and expectation of righteous persons only.

Note, 3. That it is a righteousness made ours by faith, even the righteousness of the Mediator, which gives us the best title to, and the firmest ground to hope and wait for, the kingdom of heaven and eternal life.

Note, 4. That it is the special work of the Holy Spirit to produce in us the graces of the Spirit, both faith and hope; faith to enable us to apprehend, and hope to enable us to wait for, the crown of righteousness, even eternal glory: We through the Spirit do wait for the hope of righteousness by faith?

Verse 6

In Christ Jesus, that is, in the economy of Christ Jesus, under the gospel dispensation, in our state of Christianity, since Christ's manifestation in the flesh, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision availeth any thing with God, as to our acceptance with him, or reward from him: but the qualification now necessary to salvation under the gospel, is faith working by love; that is, such an effectual belief of future happiness purchased for us, and promised to us by Christ, as causes us to love and serve him, to trust in and depend upon him for the same.

Learn, 1. That although circumcision, and the rest of the Levitical ceremonies, were once enjoined by God, and practised by the Jews as an acceptable service, and the neglect or contempt of them was a mortal sin; yet since Christ's coming in the flesh, who was the substance of all those shadows, the command whereby they were enjoined did cease, and neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avail any thing to salvation.

Learn, 2. That though the ceremonial law be abolished, yet a believer under the gospel has work to do, a work of faith, and labour of love; for though faith alone justifieth us before God, yet it is not alone in the heart when it doth justify, but is always accompanied with the grace of love to God and our neighbour; For in Christ Jesus no faith availeth any thing, but that which worketh by love.

Verse 7

Ye did run well; that is, in the race of Christianity; you set out well at first, and received the gospel in the plainness and simplicity of it, without any mixture of Jewish ceremonies: What hindered you? who stopt you? who drove you back from your belief of, and obedience to, the truth of the gospel, which you then received from me?

Here note, 1. With what holy wisdom our apostle mixes commendations with his reproofs: at the same time that he reproves them for their present backsliding, he commends them for their former forwardness; Ye did run well.

Note, 2. That ordinarily a Christian's first ways are his best ways, his first fruits his fairest fruits: Jehoshaphat walked in the first ways of David his father, 2 Chronicles 17:3. Commonly young converts are carried out with a greater measure of affection and zeal, and make a swifter progress in religion, than others do, at first, or they themselves do afterward when they are of older standing. These Galatians did run, yea, did run very well at first in the race of Christianity.

Note, 3. That when a person's or a people's progress in Christianity is not answerable to their hopeful beginnings, it is matter of regret and grief to all beholders, as well as matter of reproach and shame to he persons themselves: Ye did run well; who did hinder you? Intimating, that this their defection and apostasy was no less matter of astonishment to St. Paul, than it was of rebuke and reproach to them.

Verse 8

As if the apostle had said, "this judaizing opinion and practice of yours, this persuasion of the necessity of your being circumcised, and obeying the law of Moses; this new doctrine, so contrary to the spirit of the gospel, and the design of Christianity; was never taught you either by God or myself, or any other faithful minister of Jesus Christ, who first converted you to the faith; but it is a mere delusion of Satan, and his emissaries the false apostles: and do not think this a small matter: let not circumcision seem a little thing to you; and let not these judaizing teachers be disregarded by you as inconsiderable, because they are few in number, for they are like to leaven; and ye know very well that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump; intimating, that a few false teachers, and a little of error and false doctrine, crept into the congregation and church of Christ, may do unspeakable mischief by speedily infecting the whole church, as a little leaven (to error is compared) leaveneth the whole lump.

Verse 10

Observe here, 1. The apostle's holy confidence, grounded upon charity; that through the Lord, that is, through the Lord's assisting his endeavours, and through the Lord's blessing upon their serious consideration of what he had written to them they would be reclaimed from their errors, and brought to be of the same mind with himself.

Where note, How the holy and zealous apostle was divided betwixt hope and fear concerning these men; he feared the worst of these Galatians, and yet hopes the best: I have confidence in you through the Lord. It is a fault in the ministers of the gospel, when they despair of men too soon, when they cease or slacken their endeavours for their people's good, looking upon them as resolutely bent upon, and judicially given up unto, all evil. Though our apostle here had not a confidence of faith, or full persuasion, yet he had a confidence of charity, which caused him to hope that they would by like-minded with himself: I have confidence in you through the Lord, that you will be no otherwise minded.

Observe, 2. With what a holy caution, as well as Christian prudence and charity, our apostle applies himself unto them; declaring, that though he hoped they might be reclaimed from their error, yet, lest they should conclude their error not to be very dangerous, he shows them his just indignation against it, by denouncing deserved punishments against those that seduced them into it: He that troubleth you, shall bear his own judgment, his condemnation due to him in hell, without repentance, which is supposed in all threatenings. For the condition of conditional threatenings, though it is not always expressed, yet it is to be understood.

Observe, 3. The universality of the threatening: He shall bear his own judgment, whosoever he be: let him be who he will, or what he will; who he will for abilities and parts, what he will for power or reputation; whoever he is, or whatsoever he be, he shall bear his judgment. Such is the exact justice of God, and such his impartiality in the exercise of it, that he will suffer no impenitent transgressor to escape his indignation, whoever he is, without respect of persons: He that troubleth you shall bear his own judgment, whosoever he be.

Verse 11

Our apostle, in these words, signifies to us, that some of the judaizing teachers had suggested to the Galatians, as if he himself had preached elsewhere the doctrine of circumcision, and also practised the duty of circumcision, (by circumcising Timothy,) which here he opposes. "True, he did circumcise Timothy, but it was only to avoid offending the weak Jews, not out of any opinion which he had touching the necessity of circumcision: therefore, to discover to them the falsehood of that suggestion, he declares, that if he would have preached circumcision, he might have escaped persecution; the Jews were his persecutors, looking upon him as an apostate from their holy religion, for preaching up the abolishment of the Mosaic law."

Where observe, That the Jews, who looked upon themselves to be the people, yea, the peculiar and only people of God, and accounted all others contemptible and profane, were yet far greater persecutors of Christ and his apostles than the blind and barbarous Heathen, and all this out of zeal for God and his law: Why do I yet suffer persecution? implying, that the Jews did persecute him, that his not preaching circumcision was the cause why they did so.

He adds, Then is the offence of the cross ceased.

By the cross, may be understood either, 1. The doctrine of the cross, the doctrine of the gospel; and then the sense is, the Jews would not have taken such offence at my preaching the doctrine of the gospel as they do, were it not because by it circumcision, and the whole frame of the old legal administration, are laid aside.

Or else, 2. By the cross, may be understood the afflictions and sufferings which he underwent for the sake of Christ and his holy religion; and the sense then is, Verily, all my suffering had long since been at an end, would I but have yielded the Jews this point, that Christians are obliged to circumcision, and to yield obedience to the law of Moses; would I grant them this, my sufferings would soon be at an end; but my daily persecutions are evident demonstrations that I do not preach up circumcision; for had I so done, the offences of the cross had long since ceased.

Learn hence, That the faithful ministers of Jesus Chrsit, will not, dare not, conceal any part of the necessary truth, when the imminent hazard of people's salvation calls for the preaching of it, though the embittered enemies of religion should raise against them the fiercest persecution for the same: If I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution?

Verse 12

The apostle's meaning is, "That it were very fit, were it seasonable, that those which had thus seduced them, should be excommunicated and and cut off from the church's communion.

Where note, 1. How implicity and interpretatively St. Paul compares these seducers to rotten members, which are and ought to be cut off, lest the gangrene overspread the whole body: I would they were cut off; implying, that like rotten members they deserved it, and the church's safety called for it, would her then circumstances admit of it.

Note, 2. That in the very expression here used by St. Paul, of cutting off, there seems to be an allusion to the practice of circumcision, which is a cutting off the foreskin of the flesh, and throwing it away.

Now, says the apostle, I wish that these judaizing teachers, that urge you to be circumcised, that is, to cut off and cast away the foreskin of your flesh, I wish that they might be cut off as superfluous flesh, and cast out of the fellowship and communion of the church.

Yet, note, 3. The apostle doth rather declare what such seducers deserve, than actually inflict the censure itself; he satisfied himself with an affectionate wish, lest the number of the seduced being great, and perhaps the seducers not a few, they should be hardened rather than reformed, and the ordinance itself exposed; I would they were even cut off, &c.

Verse 13

Our apostle having finished the former part of the chapter, which contains an exhortation to stand fast in that liberty which Christ had purchased for them; he now enters upon the second part of it, namely, to caution them against abusing of their Christian liberty, and by no means to apprehend or suppose as if they were thereby freed from all obligation to serve God or man, in the duties particularly required of them.

"Brethren, says he, ye are called unto liberty, that is, to the enjoyment of evangelical liberty, which consists in a freedom from the obligation of the ceremonial law, and the curse of the moral law: use it then so as not to abuse it; use it neither to sin nor scandal; not to sin, to allow yourselves the least liberty in indulging any carnal lust, or sinful affection, nor yet to scandalize the weak, who at present scruple the forsaking of circumcision, and the rest of the ceremonial rites; Use not your liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but in love serve one another."

Learn hence, 1. That our liberty and freedom, purchased for us by Christ, doth not dissolve any tie or obligation which we lie under either to God or man; the yoke of duty is very consistent with our Christian liberty.

Learn, 2. That one of the great occasions of the sins we commit in the course of our lives, is the too free use of our Christian liberty: the using our liberty to the utmost pitch and extent of that which we call lawful, is the occasion of our running into that which is certainly sinful. Religion most certainly allows us all reasonable liberty in the gratification of our natural appetites and passions; but all excesses and immoderate liberties are forbidden by religion. And accordingly one good rule for securing ourselves from falling into sin, in the using our Christian liberty, is this, namely, that in matters of duty, we should rather take too little of our liberty than too much.

For instance, prayer and almsgiving are indispensible duties; but how oft we should pray, and how much we should give, is not positively declared; in this case to pray very frequently, and to give alms very liberally and largely, is our wisdom and duty; no damage will come by doing too much, but both damage and danger will accrue by doing too little.

Learn, 3. That it is not sufficient, in order to the right use of our Christian liberty, that we do not from thence take occasion to sin ourselves;: but we ought to take care, lest by any indiscreet use of our own liberty, we give offence, and minister occasion of sin and stumbling unto others. This truth is implied in the second injunction, By love serve one another.

Verse 14

Here our apostle enforces the foregoing exhortation to love and serve one another, with a forcible argument or motive, namely, because love is the fulfilling of the law; that is,

1. it is the fulfilling of that part of the law which relates to our neighbour; all the moral law respecting our neighbour is fulfilled in that one word, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Or, 2. Love may be said to be the fulfilling of the law in general; for true and regular love to our neighbour supposeth our love to God, springeth from it, and is an evidence of it; yea, the love of our neighbour is the perfecting and completing of our love to God. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. 1 John 4:12.

Learn, That as love is a very comprehensive duty, comprising the inward affection as well as the outward action, so the word neighbour is of a very extensive consideration, and includes all persons, friend and foe, rich and poor, near and afar off; all that partake of humanity must be sharers in our charity: our inward affection and good-will must extend to all, though the outward expressions of it can reach but a very few. Thus the law is fulfilled in one word, when we love our neighbour as ourselves: not as we do (often) love ourselves, but as we should love ourselves, namely, with a wise and well-guided love.

Verse 15

The apostle, to enforce the foregoing exhortation to mutual love, urges here the dangerous effects which their animosities and strifes, with their controversies and contentions, would most certainly produce. By biting one another, says he, you will destroy and consume one another; where it deserves a serious remark, that St. Paul compares the enmities and animosities which were amongst them, upon the score of their differences in religion, to the bitings, rendings, and devourings of wild beasts, If ye bite and devour one another; and gives them timely notice of the fatal mischiefs and consequences that will follow thereupon, namely, a total devastation and inevitable consumption of the whole church. Take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. It is a true saying, Odia religionum sunt Acerbissima, There is no such bitter hatred amongst men, as upon the score of religion. As the zeal of the Jews would not suffer an uncircumcised person to live amongst them, so probably these zealous judaizers in Galatia would not suffer those who had cast off legal observances to live quietly and peacably by them; which might give occasion to these words of the apostle, If ye bite and devour one another, take heed ye be not consumed one of another.

Learn hence, 1. That there ever have been, are, and will be, differences about matters of religion, in the best and purest churches here on earth.

Learn, 2. That these differences may and ought to be managed with great temper and charity.

Learn, 3. That then contentions are highly uncharitable, and I very sinful, when men bite and devour one another.

Learn, 4. That such uncharitable contentions are do prepare and make ready a people for utter destruction; If ye bite, &c.

Verse 16

"To prevent the fore-mentioned evils, as if the apostle had said, I advise and exhort you to walk had said, I advise and exhort you to walk in the Spirit, that is, according to the guidance and direction, according to the influence and motion, of the Holy Spirit speaking to you in his word, and then you never will fulfil the lusts of the flesh; that is, you will never accomplish and bring into complete act (especially with deliberation and consent) the inordinate motions of corrupt nature."

Learn hence, That the more Christians set themselves to obey the new nature, and follow the motions of the spirit of grace, the more will the power of indwelling sin and inbred corruption be mortified and kept under. This expression, Ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh, may be thought to import and imply these two things:

1. That an inward principle of grace in the heart will give a check to sin in its first motions, and cause it oft-times to miscarry in the womb, like an untimely birth, before it comes to its full maturity; it shall never gain the full consent of a gracious person's will, as it doth of an unregenerate person.

2. But if notwithstanding all the opposition grace makes to hinder the production of sin, if yet it doth break forth into act, such acts of sin are not committed without reluctance and regret, and are followed with shame and sorrow, yea, those very surprisals and captivities of sin at one time, are made cautions and warnings to prevent it at another time; and thus they that walk in the Spirit, do not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.

Verse 17

These words are brought in as a special reason why Christians should walk in the Spirit, that is, after the motions and guidance of God's Holy Spirit: because otherwise the flesh will quickly prevail over them; for the flesh is continually lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; that is, the evil inclinations of corrupt nature are continually struggling with, and striving against, the good motions which the Holy Spirit of God stirreth up in us. And in like manner the Spirit, or renewed nature, opposes the motions of corrupt nature: for these two principles are contrary the one to the other; so that ye who are led by the Spirit, cannot act (with deliberation and consent) according to the flesh; nor can they that are led by the flesh, do the things which delight the Spirit.

Learn hence, 1. That there is a diversity of principles in a Christian flesh and spirit; there is a good principle, called spirit, because the Spirit of God is the author of it; and a bad principle in us, which is called flesh, by which we are inclined to that which is evil. This is called flesh, to denote its intimacy with us; it is as near to us as our flesh, to denote its nearness to us; it is as dear to us as our own flesh, as dear as a right hand or right eye; and to denote its continuance with us, as long as we carry flesh about us, so long will this principle of corrupt nature remain in us and continue with us.

Learn, 2. That the motions and inclinations in our nature to sin, do ever conflict and combat with, oppose and war against the motions of God's Holy Spirit, exciting and inclining us to good: though contraries cannot be together in the same subject in an intense, yet they may be together in a remiss, degree.

Learn, 3. The consequence and issue of this combat: We cannot do the things that we would, nor any thing as we would; we cannot perform any holy duty perfectly in this life. As soon may an imperfect father beget a perfect child, as we, in our state of imperfection, perform any duty free from sin.

O, what need, what great need then, have the best of saints of the mediation and intercession of our Lord Jesus Christ, when they present any performed duty unto God!

And what need also to watch our own hearts when we are upon our knees, to fortify them against the incursions and disturbances of the flesh; seeing, after all our care and vigilance in duty, we can none of us do the things that we would, nor any thing as we should!

Verse 18

That is, if ye be under the guidance and government of the Holy Spirit of God, and that renewing principle of grace which he had produced in you, you are no longer under the law; that is, not under the moral law as a covenant of life for our justification, though under it as an eternal role of living; not under the vindictive, though under the directive power of the law. So that the force of the apostle's argument seems to lie thus: "You are by the Spirit, by the spiritual dispensation of the gospel, free from the curse and terror of the moral law; how unreasonable then is it to suppose, that you should be still subject to the ceremonial law? No; if you be led by the Spirit, neither the moral law shall condemn you, nor the cermonial law oblige and bind you."

Verse 19

Our apostle having in the foregoing verses, exhorted the Galatians to walk in the Spirit, to be led and guided by the Spirit, and by no means to obey or fulfil the lusts of the flesh; he comes in these and the following verses, to discover how they might, with certainty and assurance, know whether they were spiritual or carnal, whether the Spirit or the flesh had a prevalency in them, or dominion over them.

Accordingly, he describes particularly the flesh and the Spirit, by their various and different effects, and gives us a catalogue of the one and the other; he reckons up no fewer than seventeen works of the flesh, all which, yea, any of which, continued in, and unrepented of, are damnable; after this, he enumerates nine special and gracious fruits of the Spirit, which qualify us for, and entitle us to the kingdom of heaven; The works of the flesh are manifest, &c.

Here observe, 1. That sin is called a work, thereby intimating to us the labour and toil, the drudgery and pains, which sinners meet with in a sinful course: The ways of sin are very toilsome, although in their issue very unfruitful; sin is no pleasurable service, but a laborious servitude.

Observe, 2. The apostle calls sin by the name of works, in the plural number, the works of the flesh; intimating, that sin never goes single, but has a dangerous train and retinue: He that yields himself a servant to one sin, shall soon find himself a slave to many.

Observe, 3. That sin is called a work of the flesh, because most sins are committed by the flesh; the body is the soul's instrument, as well in the work of sin, as in the service of Christ; and the flesh is the object, about which these works are conversant, as well as the organ and instrument by which they are committed.

Observe, 4. These works of the flesh are here said to be manifest: But how so? First, they are most of them manifestly condemned by the light of nature: a natural conscience in men startles at them at first, till by custom and frequent practice they become habitual and natural to them. Secondly, they are all of them manifest by the light of scripture; the word of God, which is in all our hands, condemns all these works of the flesh to the pit of hell.

Observe, 5. The particular enumeration of the works of the flesh, here made by the apostle;

adultery, or the defiling our neighbour's bed;

fornication, or the unlawful mixture of single persons one with another;

uncleanness, under which is comprehended all sorts of filthiness, and filthy lusts, whether natural or unnatural;

lasciviousness, by which is meant all wanton behaviour, either in speech or action, tending to excite filthy desires, either in themselves or others;

idolatry, whereby God is represented to corporeal eyes by pictures and images, and so brought down to human senses; properly, therefore, is idolatry, as such, called here a work of the flesh.

Again, witchcraft, a devilish art, whereby some men and women, having made a compact with the devil, either expressly or implicitly, are enabled, with God's permission, and by the assistance of Satan, to produce effects beyond the ordinary course and order of nature, and these for the most part rather mischievous to others, than beneficial to themselves;

hatred, or a secret enmity in our hearts against our neighbour, either for real or apprehended injuries;

variance, or outward contention by words or action, arising from the forementioned enmity in the heart;

emulations, or an inward grief and displeasure at some good in others, or done by others, which eclipses and overshadows us;

wrath, or violent anger, and immoderate passion, depriving a man for the time of his reason, and transforming him into a beast;

strife, or a litigious spirit, a continual proneness to quarrelling and contending;

seditions, or rending of societies into factions, and divinding communities into parties; which dividing work, when it falls out in the state, is called sedition; when in the church, by the name of schism;

heresies, or dangerous errors in the fundamental points of religion; not arising purely from mistakes of judgment, but from the espousing of false doctrines out of disgust or pride, or from worldly principles, to avoid persecution or trouble in the flesh; these may well be accounted carnal lusts, and called works of the flesh, although they be mental errors, and their first seat is in the understanding and judgment;

envyings, a pestilent lust, which makes another's good our grief; our eyes smart at the sight of what another enjoys, though we have never the less, because another has more;

murders, that is, the executing of private revenge, by shedding of blood, and taking away our neighbour's life unjustly;

drunkenness, revellings, the one is intemperance in drinking, the other an excess in eating; all sinful abuse of the creatures of God, which he has given, not barely for necessity, but delight, is censured here as a work of the flesh.

Observe, 6. The solemn warning which the apostle gives the Galatians to watch against all these sins, and not indulge or allow themselves in the wilful commission of any one of them; I tell you, says he, that such shall not inherit the kingdom of God, but be eternally banished from him.

Now, from the whole, learn, 1. That the ministers of the gospel must not satisfy themselves barely to reprove and condemn sin in general, but must descend to particulars; though invectives against sin, at large, are of good use to expose the deformity of sin, yet, in order to the awakening of particular sinners, we must take into our consideration their particular sins, and endeavour to convince them of them, and turn them from them; so doth our apostle here, in the foregoing catalogue of vices.

Learn, 2. That the ministers of Christ must acquaint their people, not only with the danger of allowing themselves in the grosser acts of sin, as adultery, fornication, drunkenness, and revellings, and such like, but also with the danger of indulging themselves in secret sins, heart sins, sins which the eye of the world can never accuse them of, but God will condemn them for; such are hatred, emulation, envy, &c. not only the outward act of sin, but the inward desire, is dangerous and damning. It is easy for a man to murder his neighbour, in the account of God, by a secret wish, and a passionate desire; he that hateth his brother is a murderer, and he that looks upon a woman unduly, is an adulterer, in the sight of God.

Learn, 3. That the ministers of Christ can never often enough warn sinners of the danger of sin, and continuance in it; we must do it over and over again; every sabbath, and every sermon, must ring a peal in the sinner's ears, of the fatal danger of a resolute impiety: Thus here, I tell you now, as I told you in time past, that they which do such things, shall not inherit, &c.

Verse 22

Observe here, 1. That the apostle, who called sin the work of the flesh, doth here call grace the fruit of the Spirit. Sin is a work of our own; it proceeds wholly from ourselves, our own depraved minds and wills, without the least co-operation of the holy Spirit; he can neither be the author nor abettor of any thing that is evil. All sinful works are works of the flesh, and therefore our own works; but all graces accompanying salvation, are the fruit of God's Spirit: both because he is the author of them and also, because they are so acceptable and pleasing to him even as fruit is unto our taste, and likewise so profitble and advantageous to ourselves. Where the flesh ruleth, there the work exceeds the fruit; and accordingly, without any mentioning of the fruit, they are called works of the flesh; but where the Spirit of God ruleth, there the fruit exceeds the work; and therefore, without ever mentioning the work, it is called the fruit of the Spirit.

Observe, 2. That the works of the flesh are spoken of as many; but the fruit of the Spirit is spoken of as one, many works, but one fruit. There is such a connection and concatenation of graces, that although they are distinct in their natures, yet are they inseparable in their subject, pull one link of a chain, and you pull all; so he that has any one spiritual grace in reality, or at least in eminency, cannot be utterly destitute of any other; for where the holy Spirit is, there cannot be a total defect of any holy grace.

Observe, 3. That the works of the flesh are said to be manifest, Galatians 5:19 but no such thing is here affirmed of the fruit of the Spirit. Alas! God knows, the works of the flesh are but every where too manifest; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, drunkenness, do so abound in all places, that you can scarce look beside them: But the fruits of the Spirit are not so; love, peace, gentleness, meekness, these are very thing in the world; hips and haws grow in every hedge, when choicer fruits are but in some few gardens.

Observe, 4. How St. Paul enumerates here nine special fruits of the Spirit; not as if there were more, but because these here mentioned stand in a direct opposition to the former vices recited in the foregoing verses.

The first sweet fruit of the Spirit, taken notice of here by the apostle, is love; a holy affection in the soul, whereby a person is carried forth to love God, primarily and chiefly for himself, and his neighbour for God's sake:

Joy, delight in doing our duty, and rejoicing in the expectation of the reward for well-doing:

Peace, inward peace with God and conscience, and outward peace with one another:

Long-suffering, an inclination of mind disposing us to bear injuries patiently, and to forgive them readily:

Gentleness, or affability and courtesy in conversation, a sweetness of temper, which renders us greatly useful, as well as exceedingly delightful to mankind:

Goodness, a disposition inclining us to communicate what we have and are to others, and to do all the possible good we can in our respective places and stations:

Faith, or fidelity towards men, in our promises, and in all our actions, speaking exact truth:

Meekness, this is threefold, a natural meekness, which is the product of the temperament of the humours in the body, a rare felicity; there is also a moral meekness, which is the product of education and counsel, this is an amiable virtue; and there is a spiritual meekness that order the persons according to the divine rule, the holy law of God; this is a noble and divine grace, which attracts the estimation of God, and the admiration of men:

Temperance, a sober use of meat, drink, and every thing wherein our senses are gratified or delighted.

Observe, 5. A special privilge belonging to all those who are possessed of the forementioned fruits of the Spirit, and that is, exemption from the law: Against such there is no law; that is, no law to compel, no law to accuse or condemn them; for the law enjoins them, and encourgaes the practice and performance of them.

Learn hence, 1. That the best, yea, the only way to have the fruits of the Spirit thrive in our hearts, is first to mortify the works of the flesh; weeds and thistles must be rooted up before grain can grow or thrive. As the corruption of one form is the production of another, so the morification of sin makes way for the plantation of the fruits of the Spirit.

Learn, 2. That moral virtues are the fruits of the Spirit, and commence Christian graces when they are acted by faith in Christ, influenced by love unto him, and aiming at the highest of ends, the glory of God and our salvation.

Learn, 3. That if we compare the fruits of the Spirit with the works of the flesh, there will appear so much beauty in the one, and such real deformity in the other, so much satisfaction in the one, and such disquiet and vexation in the other, that besides the difference between them in their original and event, the former considerations are abundantly sufficient to engage our love to the fruits of the Spirit, and to excite our hatred to the works of the flesh.

Verse 24

They that are Christ's; that is, they that are truly his followers, and sincere disciples, they have crucified, that is, subdued, and in some degree mortified and put to death, their fleshly corruptions, their carnal lusts, and sinful affections and passions. They did, by baptism, engage themselves to die unto sin; and the regenerate have done it in some measure: that have crucified the flesh; yet we must not understand this of a total, plenary, and final crucifixion, but inchoative only; and they are said to have done it, because they are daily doing of it, in proposito, voto, et eonatu, in resolution, in desire, and endeavour.

And by affections, we are not to understand natural, fixion, is not to be understood a total extinction of sin, but a deposing of it from its regency and dominion in the soul of the sinner; yet as death surely, though slowly, follows crucifixion, so likewise doth sin live in a believer a dying life, and dies a lingering, but a certain death; They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts.

Learn hence, 1. That there are a peculiar people which are Christ's, that have special interest in him, union and communion with him; They that are Christ's, not by an external profession only, but by an internal implantation into him by faith.

Learn, 2. That all such as thus have an interest in Christ, are daily crucifying the flesh with its affections and lusts. The death of sin is here compared to our Saviour's crucifixion;

1.To show the conformity there is betwixt the death of sin, and the death of Christ. Did Christ die a painful, shameful, lingering, and accursed, death? So dies sin in the soul of a believer. There is a gradual weakening of the power of sin in him; sin is dying, as he, but it is a long time a-dying.

2.To denote the principal mean and instrument of our mortification, namely, the death of Christ; by virtue whereof believers do crucify their corrupt affections; the great arguments to mortification being drawn from the sufferings of Christ for sin.

Learn, 3. That the work of mortification, (called here, tropically, a crucifixion,) strikes not only at all sin, but at the root of all sins; it spares none, neither the flesh, nor any of its affections and lusts, do escape; root and branches, head and members; the old man is crucified, and the body of sin destroyed, and the axe of mortification laid to the root of every sin and sinful affection. In this manner do they that are Christ's crucify the flesh, with its affections and lusts.

Verse 25

If we live in the Spirit, that is, if the Spirit lives in us, if the holy Spirit of grace be the principle of our life, let us walk in the Spirit: that is, let us live and act under the conduct and guidance, under the direction and influence, of the Holy Spirit; let us do the works of the Spirit, let us bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, and let us live a spiritual life; let our dealings be about spiritual and heavenly things, and our chiefest delight be in such things; and by these spiritual delights and exercises we shall every day become more and more spiritual, and in the account of God by esteemed and reckoned amongst the number of those that walk in the Spirit. Let us then evidence the life of grace in ourselves, by exercising that grace in a life of communion with God. This seems to be the import of this remarkable place, If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Here we may note, That there must be a principle of spiritual life before there can be any spiritual motion and exercise; we must first live in the Spirit, and the Spirit live in us, before we can possibly walk in the Spirit: the child must live before it can walk.

Note, 2. That when there is a principle of grace and spiritual life in the heart, there will be the actings and exercise of grace in the life: If we live in the Spirit, we shall walk in the Spirit.

I will put my Spirit within them, and cause them to walk in my statutes. Ezekiel 36:27. An holy heart will be attended with an holy life, and a good conscience accompanied with a good conversation; spiritual life will produce spiritual motion.

Verse 26

Our apostle closes this excellent chapter with an exhortation to the Galatians to avoid all pride and ambition, all vain-glorious boastings and ostentation, not provoking one another by their contentions, not envying either the gifts or graces of God bestowed on others.

Learn hence, 1. That there is and may be in all men, a desire of applause and just commendation. All men pretend to a share in reputation, and do not love to see it monopolized and engrossed by any person.

Learn, 2. That a vain-glorious desire of applause and reputation is sinful, when we seek for what we do not deserve, or for more than we deserve, or seek more to be applauded by men than to be approved by God.

Learn, 3. That ambition is usually attended with envy and contention; no sin goes single, but has a train of followers; Let us not be desirous of vain-glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

Bibliographical Information
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Galatians 5". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/wbc/galatians-5.html. 1700-1703.
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