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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Galatians 5

 

 

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Verse 1

1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Ver. 1. Be not again entangled] ενεχεσθε. As oxen tied to the yoke. Those that followed Judas Galileus, Acts 5:37, chose rather to undergo any death than to be in subjection to any mortal. (Joseph. xviii. 2.) If civil servitude be so grievous, what ought spiritual to be? Those poor misled and muzzled souls that are held captive in the pope’s dark dungeon, have an ill time of it. Ever since, being reconciled to the Roman Church, I subjected myself and my kingdoms (said King John of England) to the pope’s authority, never anything went well with me, but all against me, Nulla mihi prospera, sed omnia adversa evenerunt.


Verse 2

2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.

Ver. 2. Behold I Paul] q.d. As true as I am Paul, and do write these things.

Christ shall profit you nothing] For he profits none but those that are found in him, not having their "own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God through faith," Philippians 3:9. As Pharaoh said of the Israelites, "they are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in," Exodus 14:3; so may it be said of Pharisaical and Popish justiciaries, they are entangled in the fond conceits of their own righteousness, they cannot come to Christ. A man will never truly desire Christ till soundly shaken, Haggai 2:7.


Verse 3

3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.

Ver. 3. That he is a debtor] viz. If he be circumcised with an opinion of meriting thereby. Christ will be our sole Saviour, or none; he will not mingle his precious blood with our puddle stuff. Those that will look unto him must look off all things else, as the apostle’s word αφορωντες importeth, Hebrews 12:2.


Verse 4

4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

Ver. 4. Christ is become of none effect] Woe then to popish merit mongers. William Wickham, founder of New College, though he did many good works, yet he professed he trusted to Jesus Christ alone for salvation. So did Charles V, emperor of Germany. So did many of our forefathers in times of Popery. (Parei Hist. Profan. medul. Dr Ussher on Ephesians 4:13)

Ye are fallen from grace] It cannot hence be concluded that the apostle speaks conditionally, and it may be understood of the true doctrine of God’s free grace.


Verse 5

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

Ver. 5. For we through the Spirit] We apostles hope for righteousness by faith. If you will go to heaven any other way, you must erect a ladder, and go up alone, as Constantine said to Acesins the Novatian heretic, Erigito scalam, Acesi, et solus ascendito.


Verse 6

6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

Ver. 6. Neither circumcision] Unregenerate Israel is as Ethiopia, Amos 9:7.

But faith that worketh] Iustificamur tribus modis, Effective a Deo, apprehensive a fide, declarative ab operibus. Faith justifies the man, and works justify faith. To be a mother in Israel, is having Rachel’s eye and Leah’s womb.


Verse 7

7 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?

Ver. 7. Ye did run well] Why do ye now stop or step back? Tutius recurrere quam male currere, was the Emperor Philip’s symbol. (Reusner Symb.) Better run back than run amiss; for in this case, "He that hasteth with his feet, sinneth," Proverbs 19:2. But to run well till a man sweats, and then to sit down and take cold, may cause a consumption.

Who did let you?] Gr. "Threw a block in your way," εγκοπτειν, transversum aliquid struere.


Verse 8

8 This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.

Ver. 8. This persuasion] Sectarians and seducers have a strange art in persuading, πιθανολογια, Colossians 2:4. And although we think ourselves able enough to answer and withstand their arguments, yet it is dangerous dealing with them. The Valentinian heretics had a trick to persuade before they taught. (Tertullian.) Arius could cog {a} a dice, and deceive the simple and heedless hearer.

{a} (Dicing.) To practise certain tricks in throwing dice. From contextual evidence it would seem that ‘cogging’ generally designated some sleight of hand, made use of to control the falling of a die; occasionally it may mean the substitution of a false die for the true one. ŒD


Verse 9

9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.

Ver. 9. A little leaven] viz. Of false doctrine, Matthew 16:6. {See Trapp on "Matthew 16:6"}


Verse 10

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.

Ver. 10. But he that troubleth you] That heresiarch, or ringleader of the faction. The beast and the false prophet are taken and cast alive into a lake, &c., when the common sort seduced by them had an easier judgment, Revelation 19:20-21.


Verse 11

11 And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.

Ver. 11. Why do I yet suffer persecution] From the Jews zealous of the law. It is well observed that the nearer any are unto a conjunction in matters of religion, and yet some difference retained, the deeper is the hatred. {a} A Jew hates a Christian worse than he doth a Turk or Pagan. A Papist hates a Protestant worse than he doth a Jew, &c.

{a} Dr Day upon 1 Corinthians 16:9.


Verse 12

12 I would they were even cut off which trouble you.

Ver. 12. I would they were even cut] Not circumcised only, cut round, but cut off, Non circumcidantur modo, sed et abscindantur. (Chrys.)

That trouble you] That turn you upside down, or that turn you out of house and home.


Verse 13

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.

Ver. 13. Only use not your liberty] In maxima libertate, minima licentia. In the greatest freedom is the least amount of licence. Therefore αναστατουντες, are men the worse, because they should be better. Christ came to call sinners, not to licentiousness, but to repentance, Mark 2:17, to take his yoke upon them, Matthew 11:29, to hire out their members servants to righteousness, Romans 6:16. Hence it is, that as St Paul’s Epistles largely prove free election and justification by Christ; so the Epistles of James, Peter, and John, press to love and new obedience, lest any should argue from mercy to liberty. Nemo sit liber in fraudem fisci, Let no one be free in mishandling the treasury, saith the civil law. (Valer. Max. ii. 1.) It was enacted among the Athenians, that whosoever, having been a bondman, was convicted of ingratitude for his manumission, should lose his liberty: the Romans made such slaves again; which punishment they term Maximam capitis diminutionem, The greatest demotion of a person. (Justin Instit. i. 16.)


Verse 14

14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Ver. 14. For all the law] i.e. All the second table. The Scripture often appropriateth the law to the second table, as Romans 13:8; Ephesians 6:2, &c. A man must exercise the first table in the second, the duties of his general calling in his particular calling. In the first commandment, saith Luther, the keeping of all the laws is enjoined, Primo praecepto reliquorum omnium observantia praecipitur. Neither can any one love his neighbour as himself, but he that loves God above all.


Verse 15

15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

Ver. 15. But if ye bite, &c.] Si collidimnr, frangimur, If we clash, we break. Dissolution is the daughter of dissension, saith Nazienzen. The Turks pray to God to keep the Christians at variance. Israelites in Egypt vexed one another; and Christians, as if they lacked enemies, fly in one another’s faces. This is a sad foretoken of a deadly consumption. {a} When the Eastern Churches were all to pieces among themselves, in came the Goths and Vandals, and afterward the Turks and Tartars. {b} When the French Churches began to jangle and jar about discipline, God suffered the Parisian massacre. Our present hideous dissensions (like those civil wars of Rome- nullos habitura triumphos, not any will hold a triumph. Lucan), do as plainly foretell the removing of our candlestick, in case we repent not, as if we had received letters from heaven to that purpose. We read in our chronicles, that those who were born in England in the year after the great mortality, A. D. 1349, wanted some of their cheek teeth. Men seem to have more now than usual; there was never such biting and snarling. England is a mighty animal (saith a great politician), which can never die except it kill itself. And to the same purpose the Lord Rich in a speech to the justices in King Edward VI’s days, "Never foreign power (saith he) could yet hurt, or in any part prevail in this realm, but by disobedience and misorder among themselves. That is the way wherewith God will plague us if he mind to punish us. And so long as we do agree among ourselves, we may be sure that God is with us, and that foreign power shall not prevail against us."

{a} Camer. Med. Hist. cent. 2.

{b} Melch. Adam. in Vita Bulling.


Verse 16

16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

Ver. 16. This I say then] For an antidote against abuse of Christian liberty. Set the Spirit, as Pharaoh did Joseph, upon the chief chariot of your hearts, and let all be at his beck and check.


Verse 17

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.

Ver. 17. For the flesh lusteth] Every new man is two men. What can a man see in the Shulamite, but as the appearance of two armies? Song of Solomon 6:13. These maintain civil broils within her, as the two babes did in Rebecea’s womb. All was jolly quiet at Ephesus, till Paul came thither; but then there arose no small stir about that way, Acts 19:23. So is there in the good soul.

So that ye cannot do the things, &c.] As ye cannot do the good that ye would, because of the flesh, {Romans 7:21, something lay at the fountain head, and stop it} so neither can ye do the evil that ye would, because of the Spirit. In which respect, setting the ingratitude aside, the sins of godly men are less than others, because the flesh cannot carry it without some counterbuffs.


Verse 18

18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

Ver. 18. Ye are not under the law] For where the Spirit is, there is liberty from the rigour, irritation, and malediction of the law.


Verse 19

19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

Ver. 19. Now the works of the flesh] Sinners are sore labourers; wicked men great workmen. Would they take but half that pains for heaven that they do for hell, they could not, likely, miss of it. The Hebrew and Greek words for sin import labour (Gnamal, πονηρια).

Are manifest] φανερα, they lie above ground, and are condemned by the light of nature. Wicked men also hang out their sins to the sight of the sun, Isaiah 3:9, that they must needs be manifest even to a natural conscience; not so the fruits of the Spirit.


Verse 20

20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

Ver. 20. Idolatry] This is fitly set after those fleshly sins, as commonly accompanied with them, 1 Corinthians 10:7-8. Sir Walter Raleigh knew what he said, that were he to choose a religion for licentious liberty and lasciviousness, he would choose the Popish religion.


Verse 21

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.

Ver. 21. Murders, drunkenness] This is often the mother of murder. Domitius, the father of Nero, slew Liberius, an honest man, because he refused to drink so much as he commanded him. (Sueton.) Alexander killed many of his dear friends in his drunkenness, whom he would have revived again (but could not) with his own heartblood. Once he invited a company to supper, and provided a crown of 180 pounds to be given to those that drank most. One and forty killed themselves with drinking to get that crown. Mr Samuel Ward in his Woe to Drunkards maketh mention of many brought by this swinish sin to untimely shameful ends in a brutish and bestial manner; among the rest, one of Aylesham in Norfolk, a notorious drunkard, drowned in a shallow brook of water with his horse by him. The like whereunto has occured in the place where I now live, this instant November 14th, A. D. 1650. At a blind clandestine alehouse, a company of odious drunkards having drunk all the three outs (that is, ale out of the pot, money out of the purse, and wit out of the head), one of them, making homeward, was drowned in a shallow ditch, his body not yet buried: upon his soul I pass no definitive sentence; but what hope can we comfortably conceive of such? Another of the same crew (rebuked by his father at the same time for his ill husbandry) swore he would hang himself; which also he did presently, and had perished by his own hands, had not his father come seasonably and cut the halter. Oh, these ale houses! the pest houses of our nation, the very sinks and sources of all villany.


Verse 22

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

Ver. 22. The fruit of the Spirit] The spirit of grace are those two golden pipes, Zechariah 4:12, through which the two olive branches empty out of themselves the golden oils of all precious graces into the candlestick, the Church. Hence grace is here and elsewhere called the fruits of the Spirit, pleasant fruits, Song of Solomon 4:16; Song of Solomon 6:2; John 15:16.

Longsuffering] It hath been questioned by Aquinas whether a man can be longsuffering, sine auxilio gratiae, without the help of grace. But that which is right is a fruit of the Spirit.

Gentleness] Gr. χρηστατης. Usefulness, sweetness.

Faith] That is, faithfulness, as Matthew 23:23; 1 Timothy 5:12; Titus 2:10.


Verse 23

23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Ver. 23. Meekness, temperance] Queen Elizabeth was famous for these two virtues. King Edward VI called her by no other name than his sweet sister Temperance. (Camd. Elizab.) She did seldom eat but one sort of meat, rose ever with an appetite, and lived about 70 years. Next to the Holy Scripture she preferred (as the best piece) Seneca’s book of Clemency. When she said, that book had done her much good; yea, said one, but it hath done your subjects much hurt. (Sir W. Vaughan, Mr Heyrick’s Three Sermons.)

Against such there is no law] 1 Timothy 1:9. As for the works of the flesh, there is no gospel. The righteous need no law to compel them, therefore they shall have none to condemn them. The law confineth them to live in that element where they would live; as if one should be confined to Paradise, where he would be, though there be no such law.


Verse 24

24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

Ver. 24. And they that are Christ’s] When Christ came in the flesh, we crucified him; when he comes into our hearts, he crucifies us.

Have crucified the flesh] To crucify is not absolutely and outright to kill; crucifixion is a lingering death, no member being free from pain. If then we so repent of sin (as that which crucified Christ), we so pierce the old man, that we are sure he will die of it, though he be not presently dead, this is mortification. Those beasts, Daniel 7:12, had their dominion taken away, and yet their lives were prolonged for a season.

With the affections] Sinful sudden passions.

And lusts] More deeply rooted in our natures, and so not so easily overcome.


Verse 25

25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Ver. 25. If we live in the spirit] Spiritual men only are heirs of life, 1 Peter 3:7, all others are dead in trespasses.

Let us walk] Walk orderly, by line and by rule, march in rank, στοιχωμεν. Life consists in action. Life, saith the philosopher, is such a faculty as whereby creatures move themselves in their own places. The godly esteem life by that stirring they find in their souls; as else they lament as over a dead soul, Isaiah 38:15-16.


Verse 26

26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

Ver. 26. Let us not be desirous of vain glory] Ingens dulcedo gloriae (saith Aeneas Sylvius) facilius contemnenda dicitur, quam contemnitur. It was this vice that raised so much trouble in Germany between Luther and Carolostadius, and that bred the sacramentary war that is not yet ended. It was a saying of Luther, From a vain glorious doctor, from a contentious pastor, and from unprofitable questions, the good Lord deliver his Church.

Provoking one another, envying one another] And so discovering your weakness, as the vainglorious peacock doth his filthy parts behind, while he delighteth to be seen and to behold his own tail.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/galatians-5.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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