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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary
Galatians 5

 

 

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Verse 1

1-31

Chapter 19

THE STORY OF HAGAR.

Galatians 4:21-31 - Galatians 5:1

THE Apostle wishes that he could "change his voice" (Galatians 4:20). Indeed he has changed it more than once. "Any one who looks closely may see that there is much change and alteration of feeling in what the Apostle has previously written" (Theodorus). Now he will try another tone; he proceeds in fact to address his readers in a style which we find nowhere else in his Epistles. He will tell his "children" a story! Perhaps he may thus succeed better than by graver argument. Their quick fancy will readily apprehend the bearing of the illustration; it may bring home to them the force of his doctrinal contention, and the peril of their own position, as he fears they have not seen them yet. And so, after the pathetic appeal of the last paragraph, and before he delivers his decisive, official protest to the Galatians against their circumcision, he interjects this "allegory" of the two sons of Abraham.

Paul cites the history of the sons of Abraham. No other example would have served his purpose. The controversy between himself and the Judaisers turned on the question, Who are the true heirs of Abraham? [Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:16; Galatians 3:29] He made faith in Christ, they circumcision and law-keeping, the ground of sonship. So the inheritance was claimed in a double sense. But now, if it should appear that this antithesis existed in principle in the bosom of the patriarchal family, if we should find that there was an elder son of Abraham’s flesh opposed to the child of promise, how powerfully will this analogy sustain the Apostle’s position. Judaism will then be seen to be playing over again the part of Ishmael; and "the Jerusalem that now is" takes the place of Hagar, the slave-mother. The moral situation created by the Judaic controversy had been rehearsed in the family life of Abraham.

"Tell me," the Apostle asks, "you that would fain be subject to the law, do you not know what it relates concerning Abraham? He had two sons, one of free, and the other of servile birth. Do you wish to belong to the line of Ishmael, or Isaac?" In this way Paul resumes the thread of his discourse dropped in Galatians 4:7. Faith, he had told his readers, had made them sons of God. They were, in Christ, of Abraham’s spiritual seed, heirs of his promise. God had sent His Son to redeem them, and the Spirit of His Son to attest their adoption. But they were not content. They were ambitious of Jewish privileges. The Legalists persuaded them that they must be circumcised and conform to Moses, in order to be Abraham’s children in full title. "Very well," the Apostle says, "you may become Abraham’s sons in this fashion. Only you must observe that Abraham had two sons. And the Law will make you his sons by Hagar, whose home is Sinai-not Israelites, but Ishmaelites!"

Paul’s Galatian allegory has greatly exercised the minds of his critics. The word is one of ill repute in exegesis. Allegory was the instrument of Rabbinical and Alexandrine Scripturists, an infallible device for extracting the predetermined sense from the letter of the sacred text. The "spiritualising" of Christian interpreters has been carried, in many instances, to equal excess of riot. For the honest meaning of the word of God anything and everything has been substituted that lawless fancy and verbal ingenuity could read into it. The most arbitrary and grotesque distortions of the facts of Scripture have passed current under cover of the clause, "which things are an allegory." But Paul’s allegory, and that of Philo and the Allegorical school, are very different things, as widely removed as the "words of truth and soberness" from the intoxications of mystical idealism.

With Paul the spiritual sense of Scripture is based on the historical, is in fact the moral content and import thereof; for he sees in history a continuous manifestation of God’s will. With the Allegorists the spiritual sense, arrived at by a priori means, replaces the historical, destroyed to make room for it. The Apostle points out in the story of Hagar a spiritual intent, such as exists in every scene of human life if we had eyes to see it, something other than the literal relation of the facts, but nowise alien from it. Here lies the difference between legitimate and illegitimate allegory. The utmost freedom may be given to this employment of the imagination, so long as it is true to the moral of the narrative which it applies. In principle the Pauline allegory does not differ from the type. In the type the correspondence of the sign and thing signified centres in a single figure or event; in such an allegory as this it is extended to a group of figures and a series of events. But the force of the application depends on the actuality of the original story, which in the illicit allegory is matter of indifference.

"Which things are allegorized"-so the Apostle literally writes in Galatians 4:24 -made matters of allegory. The phrase intimates, as Bishop Lightfoot suggests, that the Hagarene episode in Genesis [Genesis 16:1-16; Genesis 21:1-21] was commonly interpreted in a figurative way. The Galatians had heard from their Jewish teachers specimens of this popular mode of exposition. Paul will employ it too; and will give his own reading of the famous story of Ishmael and Isaac. Philo of Alexandria, the greatest allegorist of the day, has expounded the same history. These eminent interpreters both make Sarah the mother of the spiritual, Hagar of the worldly offspring; both point out how the barren is exalted over the fruitful wife. So far, we may imagine, Paul is moving on the accepted lines of Jewish exegesis. But Philo knows nothing of the correspondence between Isaac and Christ, which lies at the back of the Apostle’s allegory. And there is this vital difference of method between the two divines, that whereas Paul’s comparison is the illustration of a doctrine proved on other grounds-the painting which decorates the house already built (Luther)-with the Alexandrine idealist it forms the substance and staple of his teaching.

Under this allegorical dress the Apostle expounds once more his doctrine, already inculcated, of the difference between the Legal and Christian state. The former constitutes, as he now puts the matter, a bastard sonship like that of Ishmael, conferring only an external and provisional tenure in the Abrahamic inheritance. It is contrasted with the spiritual sonship of the true Israel in the following respects:-It is a state of nature as opposed to grace; of bondage as opposed to freedom; and further, it is temporary and soon to be ended by the Divine decree.

I. "He who is of the maid-servant is after the flesh; but he that is of the free-woman is through promise…Just as then he that was after the flesh persecuted him that was after the Spirit, So now" (Galatians 4:23; Galatians 4:29). The Apostle sees in the different parentage of Abraham’s sons the ground of a radical divergence of character. One was the child of nature, the other was the son of a spiritual faith.

Ishmael was in truth the fruit of unbelief; his birth was due to a natural but impatient misreading of the promise. The patriarch’s union with Hagar was ill-assorted and ill-advised. It brought its natural penalty by introducing an alien element into his family, life. The low-bred insolence which the serving-woman, in the prospect of becoming a mother, showed toward the mistress to whom she owed her preferment, gave a foretaste of the unhappy consequences. The promise of posterity made to Abraham with a childless wife, was expressly designed to try his faith; and he had allowed it to be overborne by the reasonings of nature. It was no wonder that the son of the Egyptian slave, born under such conditions, proved to be of a lower type, and had to be finally excluded from the house.

In Ishmael’s relation to his father there was nothing but the ordinary play of human motives. "The son of the handmaid was born after the flesh." He was a natural son. But Ishmael was not on that account cut off from the Divine mercies. Nor did his father’s prayer, "O that Ishmael might live before Thee," [Genesis 17:18] remain unanswered. A great career was reserved by Divine Providence for his race. The Arabs, the fiery sons of the desert, through him claim descent from Abraham. They have carved their name deeply upon the history and the faith of the world. But sensuousness and lawlessness are everywhere the stamp of the Ishmaelite. With high gifts and some generous qualities, such as attracted to his eldest boy the love of Abraham, their fierce animal passion has been the curse of the sons of Hagar. Mohammedanism is a bastard Judaism; it is the religion of Abraham sensualised. Ishmael stands forth as the type of the carnal man. On outward grounds of flesh and blood he seeks inheritance in the kingdom of God; and with fleshly weapons passionately fights its battles.

To a similar position Judaism, in the Apostle’s view, had now reduced itself. And to this footing the Galatian Churches would be brought if they yielded to the Judaistic solicitations. To be circumcised would be for them to be born again after the flesh, to link themselves to Abraham in the unspiritual fashion of Hagar’s son. Ishmael was the first to be circumcised. [Genesis 17:23; Genesis 17:26] It was to renounce salvation by faith and the renewing of the Holy Spirit. This course could only have one result. The Judaic ritualism they were adopting would bear fruit after its kind, in a worldly, sensuous life. Like Ishmael they would claim kinship with the Church of God on fleshly grounds; and their claims must prove as futile as did his.

The persecution of the Church by Judaism gave proof of the Ishmaelite spirit, the carnal animus by which it was possessed. A religion of externalism naturally becomes repressive. It knows not "the demonstration of the Spirit"; it has "confidence in the flesh." It relies on outward means for the propagation of its faith; and naturally resorts to the secular arm. The Inquisition and the Auto-da-fe are a not unfitting accompaniment of the gorgeous ceremonial of the Mass. Ritualism and priestly autocracy go hand in hand. "So now," says Paul, pointing to Ishmael’s "persecution" of the infant Isaac, hinted at in Genesis 21:8-10.

The laughter of Hagar’s boy at Sarah’s weaning-feast seems but a slight offence to be visited with the punishment of expulsion; and the incident one beneath the dignity of theological argument. But the principle for which Paul contends is there; and it is the more easily apprehended when exhibited on this homely scale. The family is the germ and the mirror of society. In it are first called into play the motives which determine the course of history, the rise and fall of empires or churches. The gravamen of the charge against Ishmael lies in the last word of Genesis 21:9, rendered in the Authorised Version mocking, and by the Revisers playing, after the Septaguint and the Vulgate. This word in the Hebrew is evidently a play on the name Isaac, i.e., laughter, given by Sarah to her boy with genial motherly delight (Galatians 4:6-7). Ishmael, now a youth of fourteen, takes up the child’s name and turns it, on this public and festive occasion, into ridicule. Such an act was not only an insult to the mistress of the house and the young heir at a most untimely moment, it betrayed a jealousy and contempt on the part of Hagar’s son towards his half-brother which gravely compromised Isaac’s future. "The wild, ungovernable and pugnacious character ascribed to his descendants began to display itself in Ishmael, and to appear in language of provoking insolence; offended at the comparative indifference with which he was treated, he indulged in mockery, especially against Isaac, whose very name furnished him with satirical sneers." Ishmael’s jest cost him dear. The indignation of Sarah was reasonable; and Abraham was compelled to recognise in her demand the voice of God (Galatians 4:10-12). The two boys, like Esau and Jacob in the next generation, represented opposite principles and ways of life, whose counter-working was to run through the course of future history. Their incompatibility was already manifest.

The Apostle’s comparison must have been mortifying in the extreme to the Judaists. They are told in plain terms that they are in the position of outcast Ishmael; while uncircumcised Gentiles, without a drop of Abraham’s blood in their veins, have received the promise forfeited by their unbelief. Paul could not have put his conclusion in a form more unwelcome to Jewish pride. But without this radical exposure of the legalist position it was impossible for him adequately to vindicate his gospel and defend his Gentile children in the faith.

II. From this contrast of birth "according to flesh" and "through promise" is deduced the opposition between the slave-born and free-born sons. "For these (the slave-mother and the free-woman) are two covenants, one indeed bearing children unto bondage-which is Hagar" (Galatians 4:24). The other side of the antithesis is not formally expressed; it is obvious. Sarah the princess, Abraham’s true wife, has her counterpart in the original covenant of promise renewed in Christ, and in "the Jerusalem above, which is our mother" (Galatians 4:26). Sarah is the typical mother, {Comp. Hebrews 11:11-12; 1 Peter 3:6} as Abraham is the father of the children of faith. In the systoichia, or tabular comparison, which the Apostle draws up after the manner of the schools, Hagar and the Mosaic covenant, Sinai and the Jerusalem that now is stand in one file and "answer to" each other; Sarah and the Abrahamic covenant, Zion and the heavenly Jerusalem succeed in the same order, opposite to them. "Zion" is wanting in the second file; but "Sinai and Zion" form a standing antithesis; [Hebrews 12:18-22] the second is implied in the first. It was to Zion that the words of Isaiah cited in Galatians 4:27 were addressed.

The first clause of Galatians 4:25 is best understood in the shorter, marginal reading of the R. V, also preferred by Bishop Lightfoot ( το γαρ σινα ορος εστιν k.t.l.). It is a parenthesis-"for mount Sinai is in Arabia"-covenant running on in the mind from Galatians 4:24 as the continued subject of ver. 25b: "and it answereth to the present Jerusalem." This is the simplest and most consistent construction of the passage. The interjected geographical reference serves to support the identification of the Sinaitic covenant with Hagar, Arabia being the well-known abode of the Hagarenes. Paul had met them in his wanderings there. Some scholars have attempted to establish a verbal agreement between the name of the slave-mother and that locally given to the Sinaitic range; but this explanation is precarious, and after all unnecessary. There was a real correspondence between place and people on the one hand, as between place and covenant on the other. Sinai formed a visible and imposing link between the race of Ishmael and the Mosaic law-giving. That awful, desolate mountain, whose aspect, as we can imagine, had vividly impressed itself on Paul’s memory, [Galatians 1:17] spoke to him of bondage and terror. It was a true symbol of the working of the law of Moses, exhibited in the present condition of Judaism. And round the base of Sinai Hagar’s wild sons had found their dwelling.

Jerusalem was no longer the mother of freemen. The boast, "we are Abraham’s sons; we were never in bondage," [John 8:33] was anunconscious irony. Her sons chafed under the Roman yoke. They were loaded with self-inflicted legal burdens. Above all, they were, notwithstanding their professed law-keeping, enslaved to sin, in servitude to their pride and evil lusts. The spirit of the nation was that of rebellious, discontented slaves. They were Ishmaelite sons of Abraham, with none of the nobleness, the reverence, the calm and elevated faith of their father. In the Judaism of the Apostle’s day the Sinaitic dispensation, uncontrolled by the higher patriarchal and prophetic faith, had worked out its natural result. It "gendered to bondage." A system of repression and routine, it had produced men punctual in tithes of mint and anise, but without justice, mercy, or faith; vaunting their liberty while they were "servants of corruption." The law of Moses could not form a "new creature." It left the Ishmael of nature unchanged at heart, a child of the flesh, with whatever robes of outward decorum his nakedness was covered. The Pharisee was the typical product of law apart from grace. Under the garb of a freeman he carried the soul of a slave.

But Galatians 4:26 sounds the note of deliverance: "The Jerusalem above is free; and she is our mother!" Paul has escaped from the prison of Legalism, from the confines of Sinai; he has left behind the perishing, earthly Jerusalem, and with it the bitterness and gloom of his Pharisaic days. He is a citizen of the heavenly Zion, breathing the air of a Divine freedom. The yoke is broken from the neck of the Church of God; the desolation is gone from her heart. There come to the Apostle’s lips the words of the great prophet of the Exile, depicting the deliverance of the spiritual Zion, despised and counted barren, but now to be the mother of a numberless offspring. In Isaiah’s song, "Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not" (54.), the laughter of the childless Sarah bursts forth again, to be gloriously renewed in the persecuted Church of Jesus. Robbed of all outward means, mocked and thrust out as she is by Israel after the flesh, her rejection is a release, an emancipation. Conscious of the spirit of sonship and freedom, looking out on the boundless conquests lying before her in the Gentile world, the Church of the New Covenant glories in her tribulations. In Paul is fulfilled the joy of prophet and psalmist, who sang in former days of gloom concerning Israel’s enlargement and world-wide victories. No legalist could understand words like these. "The veil" was upon his heart "in the reading of the Old Testament." But with "the Spirit of the Lord" comes "liberty." The prophetic inspiration has returned. The voice of rejoicing is heard again in the dwellings of Israel. "If the Son make you free," said Jesus, "ye shall be free indeed." This Epistle proves it.

III. "And the bondman abideth not in the house for ever; the Son abideth for ever". [John 8:35] This also the Lord had testified: the Apostle repeats His warning in the terms of this allegory.

Sooner or later the slave-boy was bound to go. He has no proper birthright, no permanent footing in the house. One day he exceeds his license, he makes himself intolerable; he must begone. "What saith the Scripture? Cast out the maidservant and her son; for the son of the maidservant shall not inherit with the son of the freewoman" (Galatians 4:30). Paul has pronounced the doom of Judaism. His words echo those of Christ: "Behold your house is left unto you desolate"; [Matthew 23:38] they are taken up again in the language of Hebrews 13:13-14, uttered on the eve of the fall of Jerusalem: "Let us go forth unto Jesus without the camp, bearing His reproach. We have here no continuing city, but we seek that which is to come." On the walls of Jerusalem ichabod was plainly written. Since it "crucified our Lord" it was no longer the Holy City; it was "spiritually Sodom and Egypt", - Egypt, {Revelation 11:8} the country of Hagar. Condemning Him, the Jewish nation passed sentence on itself. They were slaves who in blind rage slew their Master when He came to free them.

The Israelitish people showed more than Ishmael’s jealousy toward the infant Church of the Spirit. No weapon of violence or calumny was too base to be used against it. The cup of their iniquity was filling fast. They were ripening for the judgment which Christ predicted. [1 Thessalonians 2:16] Year by year they became more hardened against spiritual truth, more malignant towards Christianity, and more furious and fanatical in their hatred towards their civil rulers. The cause of Judaism was hopelessly lost. In Romans 9:1-33; Romans 10:1-21; Romans 11:1-36, written shortly after this Epistle, Paul assumes this as a settled thing, which he has to account for and to reconcile with Scripture. In the demand of Sarah for the expulsion of her rival, complied with by Abraham against his will, the Apostle reads the secret judgment of the Almighty on the proud city which he himself so ardently loved, but which had crucified his Lord and repented not. "Cut it down," Jesus cried, "why cumbereth it the ground?". [Luke 13:7] The voice of Scripture speaks again: "Cast her out; she and her sons are slaves. They have no place amongst the sons of God." Ishmael was in the way of Isaac’s safety and prosperity. And the Judaic ascendency was no less a danger to the Church. The blow which shattered Judaism at once cleared the ground for the outward progress of the gospel and arrested the legalistic reaction which hindered its internal development. The two systems were irreconcilable. It was Paul’s merit to have first apprehended this contradiction in its full import. The time had come to apply in all its rigour Christ’s principle of combat, "He that is not with Me is against Me." It is the same rule of exclusion which Paul announces: "If any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His". [Romans 8:9] Out of Christ is no salvation. When the day of judgment comes, whether for men or nations, this is the touchstone: Have we, or have we not "the Spirit of God’s Son"? Is our character that of sons of God, or slaves of sin? On the latter falls inevitably the sentence of expulsion. "He will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them that do iniquity". [Matthew 13:41]

This passage signalises the definite breach of Christianity with Judaism. The elder Apostles lingered in the porch of the Temple; the primitive Church clung to the ancient worship. Paul does not blame them for doing so. In their case this was but the survival of a past order, in principle acknowledged to be obsolete. But the Church of the future, the spiritual seed of Abraham gathered out of all nations, had no part in Legalism. The Apostle bends all his efforts to convince his readers of this, to make them sensible of the impassable gulf lying between them and outworn Mosaism. Again he repeats, "We are not children of a maidservant, but of her that is free" (Galatians 4:31). The Church of Christ can no more hold fellowship with Judaism than could Isaac with the spiteful, mocking Ishmael. Paul leads the Church across the Rubicon. There is no turning back.

Ver. 1 of chap. 5 (Galatians 5:1), is the application of the allegory. It is a triumphant assertion of liberty, a ringing summons to its defence. Its separation from chap. 4 is ill-judged, and runs counter to the ancient divisions of the Epistle. "Christ set us free," Paul declares; "and it was for freedom-not that we might fall under a new servitude. Stand fast therefore; do not let yourselves be made bondmen over again." Bondmen the Galatians had been before, [Galatians 4:8] bowing down to false and vile gods. Bondmen they will be again, if they are beguiled by the Legalists to accept the yoke of circumcision, if they take "the Jerusalem that now is" for their mother. They have tasted the joys of freedom; they know what it is to be sons of God, heirs of His kingdom and partakers of His Spirit; why do they stoop from their high estate? Why should Christ’s freemen put a yoke upon their own neck? Let them only know their happiness and security in Christ, and refuse to be cheated out of the substance of their spiritual blessings by the illusive shadows which the Judaists offer them. Freedom once gained is a prize never to be lost. No care, no vigilance in its preservation can be too great. Such liberty inspires courage and good hope in its defence. "Stand fast therefore. Quit yourselves like men."

How the Galatians responded to the Apostle’s challenge, we do not know. But it has found an echo in many a heart since. The Lutheran Reformation was an answer to it; so was the Scottish Covenant. The spirit of Christian liberty is eternal. Jerusalem or Rome may strive to imprison it. They might as well seek to bind the winds of heaven. Its home is with God. Its seat is the throne of Christ. It lives by the breath of His Spirit. The earthly powers mock at it, and drive it into the wilderness. They do but assure their own ruin. It leaves the house of the oppressor desolate. Whosoever he be, Judaist or Papist, priest, or king, or demagogue-that makes himself lord of God’s heritage and would despoil His children of the liberties of faith, let him beware lest of him also it be spoken, "Cast out the bondwoman and her son."


Verses 2-6

Chapter 20

SHALL THE GALATIANS BE CIRCUMCISED?

Galatians 5:2-6

SHALL the Galatians be circumcised, or shall they not? This is the decisive question. The denunciation with which Paul begins his letter, the narrative which follows, the profound argumentation, the tender entreaty of the last two chapters, all converge toward this crucial point. So far the Galatian Churches had been only dallying with Judaism. They have been tempted to the verge of apostasy; but they are not yet over the edge. Till they consent to be circumcised, they have not finally committed themselves; their freedom is not absolutely lost. The Apostle still hopes, despite his fears, that they will stand fast. The fatal step is eagerly pressed on them by the Judaisers, [Galatians 6:12-13] whose persuasion the Galatians had so far entertained that they had begun to keep the Hebrew Sabbath and feast.- [Galatians 4:10] If they yield to this further demand, the battle is lost; and this powerful Epistle, with all the Apostle’s previous labour spent upon them, has been in vain. To sever this section from the polemical in order to attach it to the practical part of the Epistle, as many commentators do, is to cut the nerve of the Apostle’s argument and reduce it to an abstract theological discussion.

This momentous question is brought forward with the greater emphasis and effect, because it has hitherto been kept out of sight. The allusion to Titus 2:1-5 has already indicated the supreme importance of the matter of circumcision. But the Apostle has delayed dealing with it formally and directly, until he is able to do so with the weight of the foregoing chapters to support his interdict. He has shattered the enemies’ position with his artillery of logic, he has assailed the hearts of his readers with all the force of his burning indignation and subduing pathos. Now he gathers up his strength for the final charge home, which must decide the battle.

1. Lo, I Paul tell you! When he begins thus, we feel that the decisive moment is at hand. Everything depends on the next few words. Paul stands like an archer with his bow drawn at full stretch and the arrow pointed to the mark. "Let others say what they may; this is what I tell you. If my word has any weight with you, give heed to this:-if you be circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing."

Now his bolt is shot; we see what the Apostle has had in his mind all this time. Language cannot be more explicit. Some of his readers will have failed to catch the subtler points of his argument, or the finer tones of his voice of entreaty; but every one will understand this. The most "senseless" and volatile amongst the Galatians will surely be sobered by the terms of this warning. There is no escaping the dilemma. Legalism and Paulinism, the true and the false gospel, stand front to front, reduced to their barest form, and weighed each in the balance of its practical result. Christ-or Circumcision: which shall it be?

This declaration is no less authoritative and judicially threatening than the anathema of chap. 1. That former denouncement declared the false teachers severed from Christ. Those who yield to their persuasion, will be also "severed from Christ." They will fall into the same ditch as their blind leaders. The Judaisers have forfeited their part in Christ; they are false brethren, tares among the wheat, troublers and hinderers to the Church of God. And Gentile Christians who choose to be led astray by them must take the consequences. If they obey the "other gospel," Christ’s gospel is theirs no longer. If they rest their faith on circumcision, they have withdrawn it from His cross. Adopting the Mosaic regimen, they forego the benefits of Christ’s redemption. "Christ will profit you nothing." The sentence is negative, but no less fearful on that account. It is as though Christ should say, "Thou hast no part with Me."

Circumcision will cost the Galatian Christians all they possess in Jesus Christ. But is not this, some one will ask, an over-strained assertion? Is it consistent with Paul’s professions and his policy in other instances? In Galatians 5:6, and again in the last chapter, he declares that "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision nothing"; and yet here he makes it everything! The Apostle’s position is this. In itself the rite is valueless. It was the sacrament of the Old Covenant, which was brought to an end by the death of Christ. For the new Church of the Spirit, it is a matter of perfect indifference whether a man is circumcised or not. Paul had therefore circumcised Timothy, whose mother was a Jewess, [Acts 16:1-3] though neither he nor his young disciple supposed that it was a religious necessity. It was done as a social convenience; "un-circumcision was nothing," and could in such a case be surrendered without prejudice. On the other hand, he refused to submit Titus to the same rite; for he was a pure Greek, and on him it could only have been imposed on religious grounds and as a passport to salvation. For this, and for no other reason, it was demanded by the Judaistic party. In this instance it was needful to show that "circumcision is nothing." The Galatians stood in the same position as Titus. Circumcision, if performed on them, must have denoted, not as in Timothy’s case, the fact of Jewish birth, but subjection to the Mosaic law. Regarded in this light, the question was one of life or death for the Pauline Churches. To yield to the Judaisers would be to surrender the principle of salvation by faith. The attempt of the legalist party was in effect to force Christianity into the grooves of Mosaism, to reduce the world-wide Church of the Spirit to a sect of moribund Judaism.

With what views, with what aim were the Galatians entertaining this Judaic "persuasion"? Was it to make them sons of God and heirs of His kingdom? This was the object with which "God sent forth His Son"; and the Spirit of sonship assured them that it was realised. [Galatians 4:4-7] To adopt the former means to this end was to renounce the latter. In turning their eyes to this new bewitchment, they must be conscious that their attention was diverted from the Redeemer’s cross and their confidence in it weakened. [Galatians 3:1] To be circumcised would be to rest their salvation formally and definitely on works of law, in place of the grace of God. The consequences of this Paul has shown in relating his discussion with Peter, in Galatians 2:15-21. They would "make" themselves "transgressors"; they would "make Christ’s death of none effect." In the soul’s salvation Christ will be all, or nothing. If we trust Him, we must trust Him altogether. The Galatians had already admitted a suspicion of the power of His grace, which if cherished and acted on in the way proposed, must sever all communion between their souls and Him. Their circumcision would be "the sacrament of their excision from Christ" (Huxtable).

The tense of the verb is present. Paul’s readers may be in the act of making this disastrous compliance. He bids them look for a moment at the depth of the gulf on whose brink they stand. "Stop!" he cries, "another step in that direction, and you have lost Christ."

And what will they get in exchange? They will saddle themselves with all the obligations of the Mosaic law (Galatians 5:3). This probably was more than they bargained for. They wished to find a via media, some compromise between the new faith and the old, which would secure to them the benefits of Christ without His reproach, and the privileges of Judaism without its burdens. This at least was the policy of the Judaic teachers. [Galatians 6:12-13] But it was a false and untenable position. "Circumcision verily profiteth, if thou art a doer of the law."; [Romans 2:25] otherwise it brings only condemnation. He who receives the sacrament of Mosaism, by doing so pledges himself to "keep and do" every one or its "ordinances, statutes, and judgments"-a yoke which, honest Peter said, "Neither we nor our fathers were able to bear". [Acts 15:10] Let the Galatians read the law, and consider what they are going to undertake. He who goes with the Judaists a mile, will be compelled to go twain. They will not find themselves at liberty to pick and choose amongst the legal requirements. Their legalist teachers will not raise a finger to lighten the yoke, [Luke 11:46] when it is once fastened on their necks; nor will their own consciences acquit them of it’s responsibilities. This obligation Paul, himself a master in Jewish law, solemnly affirms: "I protest (I declare before God) to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to perform the whole law."

Now this is a proved impossibility. Whoever "sets up the law," he had avouched to Cephas, "makes himself a transgressor". [Galatians 2:18] Nay, it was established of set purpose to "multiply transgressions," to deepen and sharpen the consciousness of sin. [Galatians 3:19; Romans 3:20; Romans 4:15; Romans 5:20] Jewish believers in Christ, placed under its power by their birth, had thankfully found in the faith of Christ a refuge from its accusations. [Galatians 2:16; Romans 7:24-25 - Romans 8:1-4] Surely the Galatians, knowing all this, will not be so foolish as to put themselves gratuitously under its power. To do this would be an insult to Christ, and an act of moral suicide. This further warning reinforces the first, and is uttered with equal solemnity. "I tell you, Christ will profit you nothing; and again I testify, the law will lay its full weight upon you." They will be left, without the help of Christ, to bear this tremendous burden.

This double threatening is blended into one in Galatians 5:4. The pregnant force of Paul’s Greek is untranslatable. Literally his words run, "You were nullified from Christ - κατηργηθητε απο ριστου - brought to nought (being severed) from Him, you that in law are seeking justification." He puts his assertion in the past (aorist) tense, stating that which ensues so soon as the principle of legal justification is endorsed. From that moment the Galatians cease to be Christians. In this sense they "are abolished," just as "the cross is" virtually "abolished" if the Apostle "preaches circumcision" (Galatians 5:11), and "death is being abolished" under the reign of Christ. [1 Corinthians 15:26] He has said in Galatians 5:2 that Christ will be made of none effect to them; now he adds that they "are made of none effect" in relation to Christ.

Their Christian standing is destroyed. The joyous experiences of their conversion, their share in Abraham’s blessing, their Divine sonship witnessed to by the Holy Spirit mall this is nullified, cancelled at a stroke, if they are circumcised. The detachment of their faith "from Christ" is involved in the process of attaching it to Jewish ordinances, and brings spiritual destruction upon them. The root of the Christian life is faith in Him. Let that root be severed, let the branch no longer "abide in the vine" - it is dead already.

Cut off from Christ, they "have fallen from grace." Paul has already twice identified Christ and grace, in Galatians 1:6 and Galatians 2:21. The Divine mercies centre in Jesus Christ; and he who separates himself from Him, shuts these out of his soul. The verb here used by the Apostle ( εξεπεσατε) is commonly applied {four times, e.g., in Acts 27:1-44} to a ship driven out of her course. Some such image seems to be in the writer’s mind in this passage. These racers made an excellent start, but they have stumbled; {ver. Galatians 3:3} the vessel set out from harbour in gallant style, but she is drifting fast upon the rocks. This sentence is the exact opposite of ‘stands in the grace,’ Romans 5:2 (Beet).

That he who "seeks justification in law has fallen from grace, " needs no proof after the powerful demonstration of Galatians 2:14-21. The moralist claims quittance on the ground of his deservings. He pleads the quality of his "works," his punctual discharge of every stipulated duty, from circumcision onwards. "I fast twice a week," he tells his Divine Judge; "I tithe all my gains. I have kept all the commandments from my youth up." What can God expect more than this? But with these performances Grace has nothing to do. The man is not in its order. If he invokes its aid, it is as a make-weight, a supplement to the possible shortcomings in a virtue for the most part competent for itself. Now the grace of God is not to be set aside in this way; it refuses to be treated as a mere succedaneum of human virtue. Grace, like Christ, insists on being "all in all." "If salvation is by grace, it is no longer of works"; and "if of works, it is no more grace". [Romans 11:6] These two methods of justification imply different moral tempers, an opposite set and direction of the current of life. This question of circumcision brings the Galatians to the parting of the ways. Grace or Law-which of the two roads will they follow? Both they cannot. They may become Jewish proselytes; but they will cease to be Christians. Leaving behind them the light and joy of the heavenly Zion, they will find themselves wandering in the gloomy desolations of Sinai.

2. From this prospect the Apostle bids his readers turn to that which he himself beholds, and which they erewhile shared with him. Again he seems to say, "Be ye as I am, brethren"; [Galatians 4:12] not in outward condition alone, but still more in inward experience and aspiration. "For we by the Spirit, on the ground of faith are awaiting the hope of righteousness" (Galatians 5:5).

Look on this picture, and on that. Yonder are the Galatians, all in tumult about the legalistic proposals, debating which of the Hebrew feasts they shall celebrate and with what rites, absorbed in the details of Mosaic ceremony, all but persuaded to be circumcised and to settle their scruples out of hand by a blind submission to the Law. And here, on the other side, is Paul with the Church of the Spirit, walking in the righteousness of faith and the communion of the Holy Spirit, joyfully awaiting the Saviour’s final coming and the hope that is laid up in heaven. How vexed, how burdened, how narrow and puerile is the one condition of life; how large and lofty and secure the other. "We," says the Apostle, "are looking forwards, not backwards, to Christ and not to Moses."

Every word in this sentence is full of meaning. Faith carries an emphasis similar to that it has in Galatians 2:16; Galatians 3:22; and in Romans 4:16. Paul supports by contrast what he has just said: "Your share in the kingdom of grace is lost who seek a legal righteousness (Galatians 5:4); it is by faith that we look for our heritage." Hope is clearly matter of hope, the future glory of the redeemed, described in Romans 8:18-25, Philippians 3:20-21, in both of which places there appears the remarkably compounded verb ( απ εκ δεχομεθα) that concludes this verse. It implies an intent expectancy, sure of its object and satisfied with it. The hope is "righteousness’ hope"-the hope of the righteous-for it has in righteousness its warrant. The saying of Psalms 16:1-11, verified in Christ’s rising from the dead, contains its principle: "Thou wilt not leave my soul to death; nor suffer Thine holy one to see the pit." This was the secret "hope of Israel," [Acts 23:6; Acts 24:15; Acts 26:6-8; comp. John 6:39-40; John 6:44] that grew up in the hearts of the men of faith, whose accomplishment is the crowning glory of the redemption of Christ. It is the goal of faith. Righteousness is the path that leads to it. The Galatians had been persuaded of this hope and embraced it; if they accept the "other gospel," with its phantom of a legal righteousness, their hope will perish.

The Apostle is always true to the order of thought here indicated. Faith saves from first to last. The present righteousness and future glory of the sons of God alike have their source in faith. The act of reliance by which the initial justification of the sinner was attained, now becomes the habit of the soul, the channel by which its life is fed, rooting itself ever more deeply into Christ and absorbing more completely the virtue of His death and heavenly life. Faith has its great ventures; it has also its seasons of endurance, its moods of quiet expectancy, its unweariable patience. It can wait as well as work. It rests upon the past, seeing in Christ crucified its "author"; then it looks on to the future, and claims Christ glorified for its "finisher." So faith prompts her sister Hope and points her to "the glory that shall be revealed." If faith fails, hope quickly dies. Unbelief is. the mother of despair. "Of faith," the Apostle says, "we look out!"

A second condition, inseparable from the first, marks the hope proper to the Christian righteousness. It is sustained "by the Spirit." The connection of faith and hope respectively with the gift of the Holy Spirit is marked very clearly by Paul in Ephesians 1:13-14 : "Having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit, who is the earnest of our inheritance." The Holy Spirit seals the sons of God-"sons, then heirs". [Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:15-17] This stamps on Christian hope a spiritual character. The conception which we form of it, the means by which it is pursued, the temper and attitude in which it is expected, are determined by the Holy Spirit who inspires it. This pure and celestial hope is therefore utterly removed from the selfish ambitions and the sensuous methods that distinguished the Judaistic movement. [Galatians 4:3; Galatians 4:9; Galatians 6:12-14] "Men of worldly low design" like Paul’s opponents in Galatia, had no right to entertain "the hope of righteousness." These matters are spiritually discerned; they are "the things of the Spirit, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him". [1 Corinthians 2:9-14]

If faith and hope are in sight, love cannot be far off. In the next verse it comes to claim its place beside the other two: "faith working through love." And so the blessed trio is complete, Fides, amor, spes: summa Christianismi (Bengel). Faith waits, but it also works; and love is its working energy. Love gives faith hands and feet; hope lends it wings. Love is the fire at its heart, the life-blood coursing in its veins; hope the light that gleams and dances in its eyes. Looking back to the Christ that hath been manifested, faith kindles into a boundless love; looking onward to the Christ that shall be revealed, it rises into an exultant hope.

These closing words are of no little theological importance. "They bridge over the gulf which seems to separate the language of Paul and James. Both assert a principle of practical energy, as opposed to a barren, inactive theory" (Lightfoot). Had the faith of Paul’s readers been more practical, had they been of a diligent, enterprising spirit, "ready for every good word and work," they would not have felt, to the same degree, the spell of the Judaistic fascination. Idle hands, vain and restless minds, court temptation.

A manly, energetic faith will never play at ritualism or turn religion into a round of ceremonial, anesthetic exhibition. Loving and self-devoting faith in Christ is the one thing Paul covets to see in the Galatians. This is the working power of the gospel, the force that will lift and regenerate mankind. In comparison with this, questions of Church-order and forms of worship are "nothing." "The body is more than the raiment." Church organisation is a means to a certain end; and that end consists in the life of faith and love in Christian souls. Each man is worth to Christ and to His Church just so much as he possesses of this energy of the Spirit, just so much as he has of love to Christ and to men in Him. Other gifts and qualities, offices and orders of ministry, are but instruments for love to employ, machinery for love to energise.

The Apostle wishes it to be understood that he does not condemn circumcision on its own account, as though the opposite condition were in itself superior. If "circumcision does not avail anything, neither does uncircumcision." The Jew is no better or worse a Christian because he is circumcised; the Gentile no worse or better, because he is not. This difference in no way affects the man’s spiritual standing or efficiency. Let the Galatians dismiss the whole question from their minds. "One thing is needful," to be filled with the Spirit of love. "God’s kingdom is not meat and drink"; it is not "days and seasons and years"; it is not circumcision, nor rubrics and vestments and priestly functions; it is "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." These are the true notes of the Church; "by love," said Christ, "all men will know that you are My disciples."

In these two sentences (Galatians 5:5-6) the religion of Christ is summed up. Galatians 5:5 gives us its statics; Galatians 5:6 its dynamics. It is a condition, and an occupation; a grand outlook, and an intent pursuit; a Divine hope for the future, and a sovereign power for the present, with an infinite spring of energy in the love of Christ. The active and passive elements of the Christian life need to be justly balanced. Many of the errors of the Church have arisen from one-sidedness in this respect. Some do nothing but sit with folded hands till the Lord comes; others are too busy to think of His coining at all. So waiting degenerates into indolence; and serving into feverish hurry and anxiety, or mechanical routine. Let hope give calmness and dignity, buoyancy and brightness to our work; let work make our hope sober, reasonable, practical.

"These three abide-faith, hope, and love." They cannot change while God is God and mart is man. Forms of dogma and of worship have changed and must change. There is a perpetual "removing of the things that are shaken, as of things that are made"; but through all revolutions there "remain the things which are not shaken." To these let us rally. On these let us build. New questions thrust themselves to the front, touching matters as little essential to the Church’s life as that of circumcision in the Apostolic age. The evil is that we make so much of them. In the din of controversy we grow bewildered; our eyes are blinded with its dust; our souls chafed with its fretting. We lose the sense of proportion; we fail to see who are our true friends, and who our foes. We need to return to the simplicity that is in Christ. Let us "consider Him" - Christ incarnate, dying, risen, reigning, - till we are changed into the same image, till his life has wrought itself into ours. Then these questions of dispute will fall into their proper place. They will resolve themselves; or wait patiently for their solution. Loyalty to Jesus Christ is the only solvent of our controversies.

Will the Galatians be true to Christ? Or will they renounce their righteousness in Him for a legal status, morally worthless, and which will end in taking from them the hope of eternal life? They have nothing to gain, they have everything to lose in submitting to circumcision.


Verses 7-12

Chapter 21

THE HINDERERS AND TROUBLERS.

Galatians 5:7-12

THE Apostle’s controversy with the Legalists is all but concluded. He has pronounced on the question of circumcision. He has shown his readers, with an emphasis and clearness that leave nothing more to be said, how fearful is the cost at which they will accept the "other gospel," and how heavy the yoke which it will impose upon them. A few further observations remain to be made-of regret, of remonstrance, blended with expressions of confidence more distinct than any the Apostle has hitherto employed. Then with a last contemptuous thrust, a sort of coup de grace for the Circumcisionists, Paul passes to the practical and ethical part of his letter.

This section is made up of short, disconnected sentences, shot off in various directions; as though the writer wished to have done with the Judaistic debate, and would discharge at a single volley the arrows remaining in his quiver. Its prevailing tone is that of conciliation towards the Galatians (comp. chapter 18.), with increasing severity towards the legalist teachers. "See how bitter he is against the deceivers. For indeed at the beginning he directed his Censures against the deceived, calling them ‘senseless’ both once and again. But now that he has sufficiently chastened and corrected them, for the rest he turns against their deceivers. And we should observe his wisdom in both these things, in that he admonishes the one party and brings them to a better mind, being his own children and capable of amendment; but the deceivers, who are a foreign element and incurably diseased, he cuts off" (Chrysostom).

There lie before us therefore in this paragraph the following considerations:

- Paul’s hope concerning the Galatian Churches, his protest on his own behalf, and finally his judgment respecting the troublers.

1. The more hopeful strain of the letter at this point appears to be due to the effect of his argument upon the writer’s own mind. As the breadth and grandeur of the Christian faith open out before him, and he contrasts its spiritual glory with the ignoble aims of the Circumcisionists, Paul cannot think that the readers will any longer doubt which is the true gospel. Surely they. will be disenchanted. His irrefragable reasonings, his pleading entreaties and solemn warnings are bound to call forth a response from a people so intelligent and so affectionate. "For my part," he says, "I am confident in the Lord that you will be none otherwise minded (Galatians 5:10), that you will be faithful to your Divine calling, despite the hindrances thrown in your way." They will, he is persuaded, come to see the proposals of the Judaisers in their proper light. They will think about the Christian life-its objects and principles as he himself does; and will perceive how fatal would be the step they are urged to take. They will be true to themselves and to the Spirit of sonship they have received. They will pursue more earnestly the hope set before them and give themselves with renewed energy to the work of faith and love (Galatians 5:5-6), and forget as soon as possible this distracting and unprofitable controversy.

"In the Lord" Paul cherishes this confidence. "In Christ’s grace" the Galatians were called to enter the kingdom of God; [Galatians 5:8; Galatians 1:6] and He was concerned that the work begun in them should be completed. [Philippians 1:6] It may be the Apostle at this moment was conscious of some assurance from his Master that his testimony in this Epistle would not prove in vain. The recent submission of the Corinthians would tend to increase Paul’s confidence in his authority over the Gentile Churches.

Another remembrance quickens the feeling of hope with which the Apostle draws the conflict to a close. He reminds himself of the good confession the Galatians had aforetime witnessed, the zeal with which they pursued the Christian course, until this deplorable hindrance arose: "You were running well finely. You had fixed your eyes on the heavenly prize. Filled with an ardent faith, you were zealously pursuing the great spiritual ends of the Christian life (comp. Galatians 5:5-6). Your progress has been arrested. You have yielded to influences which are not of God who called you, and admitted amongst you a leaven that, if not cast out, will corrupt you utterly (Galatians 5:8-9). But I trust that this result will be averted. You will return to better thoughts. You will resume the interrupted race, and by God’s mercy will be enabled to bring it to a glorious issue" (Galatians 5:10).

There are kindness and true wisdom in this encouragement. The Apostle has "told them the truth"; he has "reproved with all authority"; now that this is done, there remains nothing in his heart but good-will and good wishes for his Galatian children. If his chiding has wrought the effect it was intended to produce, then these words of softened admonition will be grateful and healing. They have "stumbled, but not that they might fall." The Apostle holds out the hand of restoration; his confidence animates then: to hope better things for themselves. He turns his anger away from them, and directs it altogether upon their injurers.

2. The Judaisers had troubled the Churches of Galatia; they had also maligned the Apostle Paul. From them undoubtedly the imputation proceeded which he repudiates so warmly in Galatians 5:11 : "And I, brethren, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still persecuted?" This supposition a moment’s reflection would suffice to refute. The contradiction was manifest. The persecution which everywhere followed the Apostle marked him out in all men’s eyes as the adversary of Legalism.

There were circumstances, however, that lent a certain colour to this calumny. The circumcision of Timothy, for instance, might be thought to look in this direction. [Acts 16:1-3] And Paul valued his Hebrew birth. He loved his Jewish brethren more than his own salvation. [Romans 9:1-5; Romans 11:1] There was nothing of the revolutionary or the iconoclast about him. Personally he preferred to conform to the ancient usages, when doing so did not compromise the honour of Christ. [Acts 18:18; Acts 21:17-26]

It was false that he "taught the Jews not to circumcise their children, nor to walk by the customs". [Acts 21:20-26] He did teach them that these things were "of no avail in Christ Jesus"; that they were in no sense necessary to salvation; and that it was contrary to the will of Christ to impose them upon Gentiles. But it was no part of his business to alter the social customs of his people, or to bid them renounce the glories of their past. While he insists that "there is no difference" between Jew and Gentile in their need of the gospel and their rights in it, he still claims for the Jew the first place in the order of its manifestation.

This was an entirely different thing from "preaching circumcision" in the legalist sense, from heralding ( κηρυσσω: verse 11) and crying up the Jewish ordinance, and making it a religious duty. This difference the Circumcisionists affected not to understand. Some of Paul’s critics will not understand it even now. They argue that the Apostle’s hostility to Judaism in this Epistle discredits the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles, inasmuch as the latter relates several instances of Jewish conformity on his part.

What pragmatical narrowness is this! Paul’s adversaries said, "He derides Judaism amongst you Gentiles, who know nothing of his antecedents, or of his practice in other places. But when he pleases, this liberal Paul will be as zealous for circumcision as any of us. Indeed he boasts of his skill in ‘becoming all things to all men’; he trims his sail to every breeze. In Galatia he is all breadth and tolerance; he talks about our ‘liberty which we have in Christ Jesus’; he is ready to ‘become as you are’; no one would imagine he had ever been a Jew. In Judea he makes a point of being strictly orthodox, and is indignant if any one questions his devotion to the Law."

Paul’s position was a delicate one, and open to misrepresentation. Men of party insist on this or that external custom as the badge of their own side; they have their party-colours and their uniform. Men of principle adopt or lay aside such usages with a freedom which scandalises the partisan. What right, he says, has any one to wear our colours, to pronounce our shibboleth, if he is not one of ourselves? If the man will not be with us, let him be against us. Had Paul renounced his circumcision and declared himself a Gentile out and out, the Judaists might have understood him. Had he said, Circumcision is evil, they could have endured it better; but to preach that Circumcision is nothing, to reduce this all-important rite to insignificance, vexed them beyond measure. It was in their eyes plain proof of dishonesty. They tell the Galatians that Paul is playing a double part, that his resistance to their circumcision is interested and insincere.

The charge is identical with that of "man-pleasing" which the Apostle repelled in Galatians 1:10 (see chapter 3). The emphatic "still" of that passage recurs twice in this, bearing the same meaning as it does there. Its force is not temporal, as though the Apostle were thinking of a former time when he did "preach circumcision": no such reference appears in the context, and these terms are inappropriate to his pre-Christian career. The particle points a logical contrast, as, e.g.. in Romans 3:7; Romans 9:19 : "If I still (notwithstanding my professions as a Gentile apostle) preach circumcision, why am I still (notwithstanding my so preaching) persecuted?"

Had Paul been known by the Jews to be in other places a promoter of circumcision, they would have treated him very differently. He could not then have been, as the Galatians knew him everywhere to be, "in perils from his fellow-countrymen."

The rancour of the Legalists was sufficient proof of Paul’s sincerity. They were themselves guilty of the baseness with which they taxed him. It was in order to escape the reproach of the cross (Galatians 5:2), to atone for their belief in the Nazarene, that they persuaded Gentile Christians to be circumcised. [Galatians 6:11-12] They were the man-pleasers. The Judaisers knew perfectly well that the Apostle’s observance of Jewish usage was no endorsement of their principles. The print of the Jewish scourge upon his back attested his loyalty to Gentile Christendom. [Galatians 6:17; 2 Corinthians 11:24] A further consequence would have ensued from the duplicity imputed to Paul, which he resents even more warmly: "Then," he says, "if I preach circumcision, the offence of the cross is done away!" He is charged with treason against the cross of Christ. He has betrayed the one thing in which he glories, [Galatians 6:14] to which the service of his life was consecrated! For the doctrine of the cross was at an end if the legal ritual were re-established and men were taught to trust in the saving efficacy of circumcision above all, if the Apostle of the Gentiles had preached this doctrine! The Legalists imputed to him the very last thing of which he was capable. This was in fact the error into which Peter had weakly fallen at Antioch. The Jewish Apostle had then acted as though "Christ died in vain". [Galatians 2:21] For himself Paul indignantly denies that his conduct bore any such construction.

But he says, "the scandal of the cross"-that scandalous, offensive cross, the stumbling-block of Jewish pride. [1 Corinthians 1:23] The death of Christ was not only revolting in its form to Jewish sentiment; it was a fatal event for Judaism itself. It imported the end of the Mosaic economy. The Church at Jerusalem had not yet fully grasped this fact; they sought, as far as possible, to live on good terms with their non-Christian Jewish brethren, and admitted perhaps too easily into their fellowship men who cared more for Judaism than for Christ and His cross. For them also the final rupture was approaching, when they had to "go forth unto Jesus without the camp." Paul had seen from the first that the breach was irreparable. He determined to keep his Gentile Churches free from Judaic entanglements. In his view, Calvary was the terminus of Mosaism.

This was true historically. The crime of national Judaism in slaying its Messiah was capital. Its spiritual blindness and its moral failure had received the most signal proof. The congregation of Israel had become a synagogue of Satan. And these were "the chosen people," the world’s elite, who "crucified the Lord of glory"! Mankind had done this thing. The world has "both seen and hated both Him and the Father."

Now to set up circumcision again, or any kind of human effort or performance, as a ground of justification before God, is to ignore this judgment; it is to make void the sentence which the cross of Christ has passed upon all "works of righteousness which we have done." This teaching sorely offends moralists and ceremonialists, of whatever age or school; it is "the offence of the cross."

And further, as matter of Divine appointment the sacrifice of Calvary put an end to Jewish ordinances. Their significance was gone. The Epistle to the Hebrews develops this consequence at length in other directions. For himself the Apostle views it from a single and very definite standpoint. The Law, he says, had brought on men a curse; it stimulated sin to its worst developments. [Galatians 3:10; Galatians 3:19] Christ’s death under this curse has expiated and removed it for us. [Galatians 3:13] His atonement met man’s guilt in its culmination. The Law had not prevented-nay, it gave occasion to the crime; it necessitated, but could not provide expiation, which was supplied "outside the law." [Romans 3:21 : χω νομου]

The "offence" of the doctrine of the cross lay just here. It reconciled man with God on an extra-legal footing. It provided a new ground of justification and pronounced the old worthless. It fixed the mark of moral impotence and rejection upon the system to which the Jewish nature clung with passionate pride. To preach the cross was to declare legalism abolished: to preach circumcision was to declare the cross and its offence abolished.

This dilemma the Circumcisionists would fain escape. They fought shy of Calvary. Like some later moralists, they did not see why the cross should be always pushed to the front, and its offence forced upon the world. Surely there was in the wide range of Christian truth abundance of other profitable topics to discuss, without wounding Jewish susceptibilities in this way.

But this endeavour of theirs is just what Paul is determined to frustrate. He confronts Judaism at every turn with that dreadful cross. He insists that it shall be realised in its horror and its shame, that men shall feel the tremendous shock which it gives to the moral conceit, the self-justifying spirit of human nature, which in the Jew of this period had reached its extreme point. "If law could save, if the world were not guilty before God," he reiterates, "why that death of the cross? God hath set Him forth a propitiation." And whoso accepts Jesus Christ must accept Him crucified, with all the offence and humiliation that the fact involves.

In later days the death of Christ has been made void in other ways. It is veiled in the steam of our incense. It is invested with the halo of a sensuous glorification. The cross has been for many turned into an artistic symbol, a beautiful idol festooned with garlands, draped in poetry, but robbed of its spiritual meaning, its power to humble and to save. Let men see it "openly set forth," in its naked terror and majesty, that they may know what they are and what their sins have done.

We rely on birth and good breeding, on art and education as instruments of moral progress. Improved social arrangements, a higher environment, these, we think, will elevate the race. Within their limits these forces are invaluable; they are ordained of God. But they are only law at the best. When they have done their utmost, they leave man still unsaved-proud, selfish, unclean, miserable. To rest human salvation on self-improvement and social reform is legalism over again. To civilise is not to regenerate. These methods were tried in Mosaism, under circumstances in many respects highly favourable. "The scandal of the cross" was the result. Education and social discipline may produce a Pharisee, nothing higher. Legislation and environment work from the outside. They cannot touch the essential human heart. Nothing has ever done this like the cross of Jesus Christ. He who "makes it of none effect," whether in the name of Jewish tradition or of modern progress, takes away the one practicable hope of the moral regeneration of mankind.

3. We are now in a position to estimate more precisely the character and motives of the Judaistic party, the hinderers and troublers of this Epistle.

In the first place it appears that they had entered the Galatian communities from without. The fact that they are called troublers (disturbers) of itself suggests this (Galatians 5:10; Galatians 1:7). They came with a professed "gospel," as messengers bringing new tidings; the Apostle compares them to himself, the first Galatian evangelist, "or an angel from heaven". [Galatians 1:8-9] He glances at them in his reference to "false brethren" at an earlier time "brought into (the Gentile Church) unawares". [Galatians 2:4] These men are "courting" the favour of Paul’s Galatian disciples, endeavouring to gain them over in his absence. [Galatians 4:17-18] They have made misleading statements respecting his early career and relations to the Church, which he is at pains to correct. They professed to represent the views of the Pillars at Jerusalem, and quoted their authority against the Apostle Paul.

From these considerations we infer that "the troublers" were Judaistic emissaries front Palestine. The second Epistle to Corinth, contemporaneous with this letter, reveals the existence of a similar propaganda-in the Greek capital at the same period. Paul had given the Galatians warning on the subject at his last visit. [Galatians 1:9] There were already, we should suppose, in the Galatian societies, before the arrival of the Judaisers, Jewish believers in Christ of legalistic tendencies, prepared to welcome and support the new teachers. But it was the coming of these agitators from without that threw the Churches of Galatia into such a ferment, and brought about the situation disclosed in this Epistle.

The allusion made in Galatians 2:12 to "certain from James," taken in connection with other circumstances, points, as we think, to the outbreak of a systematic agitation against the Apostle Paul, which was carried on during his third missionary tour, and drew from him the great evangelical Epistles of this epoch. This anti-Pauline movement emanated from Jerusalem and pretended to official sanction. Set on foot at the time of the collision with Peter at Antioch, the conflict is now in full progress. The Apostle’s denunclation of his opponents is unsparing. They "hinder" the Galatians "from obeying truth" (ver. 7); they entice them from the path in which they had bravely set out, and are robbing them of their heritage in Christ. It was a false, a perverted gospel that they taught. [Galatians 1:7] They east on their hearers an envious spell which drew them away from the cross and its salvation. [Galatians 2:21; Galatians 3:1] Not truth, but self-interest and party-ends were the objects they pursued. [Galatians 4:17; Galatians 6:12-13] Their "persuasion" was assuredly not of God, "who had called" the Galatians through the Apostle’s voice. If God had sent Paul amongst them, as the Galatians had good reason to know, clearly He had not sent these men, with their "other gospel."

The vitiating "leaven" at work in the spiritual life of the Galatians, is not arrested, would soon "leaven the whole lump." The Apostle applies to the Judaistic doctrine the same figure under which he described the taint of immorality found in the Church of Corinth. [1 Corinthians 5:6-8] So jealous and unscrupulous, so deadly in its effect on evangelical faith and life was the spirit of Jewish legalism. The Apostle trusts that his Galatians will after all escape from this fatal infection, that they will leave "the troublers" alone to "bear the judgment" which must fall upon them (Galatians 5:10). The Lord is the Keeper, and the Avenger of His Church. No one, "whosoever he be," will injure it with impunity. Let the man that makes mischief in the Church of Jesus Christ take care what he is about. The tempted may escape; sins of ignorance and weakness can be forgiven. But woe unto the tempter!

Against the wilful perverters of the gospel the Apostle at the outset delivered his anathema. For these Circumcisionists in particular he has one further wish to express. It is a grim sort of suggestion, to be read rather by way of sarcasm than in the strict letter of fulfilment. The devotees of circumcision, he means to say, might as well go a step farther. If the physical mark of Judaism, the mere surgical act, is so salutary, why not "cut off" the member altogether, like the emasculated priests of Cybele (Galatians 5:12)? This mutilation belonged to the worship of the great heathen goddess of Asia Minor, and was associated with her debasing cultus. Moreover it excluded its victim from a place in the congregation of Israel. [Deuteronomy 23:1]

This mockery, though not to be judged by modern sentiment, in any case went to the verge of what charity and decency permit. It breathes a burning contempt for the Judaising policy. It shows how utterly circumcision had lost its sacredness for the Apostle. Its spiritual import being gone, it was now a mere "concision," [Philippians 3:2] a cutting of the body-nothing more.

Such language was well calculated to disgust Gentile Christians with the rite of circumcision. It helps to account for the implacable hatred with which Paul was regarded by orthodox Jews. It accords with what he intimated in Galatians 4:9, to the effect that Jewish conformity was for the Gentiles in effect heathenish. Apart from its relation to the obsolete Mosaic covenant, circumcision was in itself no holier than the deformities inflicted by Paganism on its votaries.

The Judaisers are finally described, not merely "overthrow you." The Greek word ( αναστατεω) as "troublers" and "hinderers," but as "those that unsettle you"-or more strongly still, occurs in Acts 17:6; Acts 21:38, where it is rendered, turn upside down, stir to sedition. These men were carrying on a treasonable agitation. False themselves to the gospel of Christ, they incited the Galatians to belie their Christian professions, to betray the cause of Gentile liberty, and to desert their own Apostle. They deserved to suffer some degrading punishment. "Full" as they were "of subtlety and mischief, perverting the right ways of the Lord," Paul did well to denounce them and to turn their zeal for circumcision to derisive scorn.


Verses 13-15

Chapter 22

THE PERILS OF LIBERTY.

Galatians 5:13-15

OUR analysis has drawn a strong line across the middle of this chapter. At Galatians 5:13 the Apostle turns his mind in the ethical direction. He has dismissed "the troublers" with contempt in Galatians 5:12; and until the close of the Epistle does not mention them again; he addresses his readers on topics in which they are left out of view. But this third, ethical section of the letter is still continuous with its polemical and doctrinal argument.

It applies the maxim of Galatians 5:6, "Faith works through love"; it reminds the Galatians how they had "received the Spirit of God". [Galatians 3:2-3; Galatians 4:6] The rancours and jealousies opposed to love, the carnal mind that resists the Spirit-these are the objects of Paul’s dehortations. The moral disorders which the Apostle seeks to correct arose largely out of the mischief caused by the Judaisers. And his exhortations to love and good works are themselves indirectly polemical. They vindicate Paul’s gospel from the charge of antinomianism, while they guard Christians from giving occasion to the charge. They protect from exaggeration and abuse the liberty already defended from legalistic encroachments. The more precious and sacred is the freedom of Gentile believers, the more on the one hand do those deserve punishment who would defraud them of it; and the more earnestly must they on their part guard this treasure from misuse and dishonour. In this sense Galatians 5:13 a stands between the sentence against the Circumcisionists in Galatians 5:12 and the appeal to the Galatians that follows. It repeats the proclamation of freedom made in ver. I, making it the ground at once of the judgment pronounced against the foes of freedom and the admonition addressed to its possessors. "For you were called (summoned by God to enter the kingdom of His Son) with a view to liberty- not to legal bondage; nor, on the other hand, that you might run into license and give the reins to self-will and appetite-not liberty for an occasion to the flesh."

1. Here lies the danger of liberty, especially when conferred on a young, untrained nature, and in a newly emancipated community.

Freedom is a priceless boon; but it is a grave responsibility. It has its temptations, as well as its joys and dignities. The Apostle has spoken at length of the latter: it is the former that he has now to urge. Keep your liberties, he seems to say; for Christ’s sake and for truth’s sake hold them fast, guard them well. You are God’s regenerated sons. Never forego your high calling. God is on your side, and those who assail you shall feel the weight of His displeasure. Yes, "stand fast" in. the liberty wherewith "Christ made you free." But take care how you employ your freedom; "only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh." This significant only turns the other side of the medal, and bids us read the legend on its reverse front. On the obverse we have found it written, "The Lord knoweth them that are His." [2 Timothy 2:19; comp. Galatians 4:6; Galatians 4:9] This is the side of privilege and of grace, the spiritual side of the Christian life. On the reverse it bears the motto, "Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity." This is the second, the ethical side of our calling, the side of duty, to which we have now to turn.

The man, or the nation that has won its freedom, has won but half the battle. It has conquered external foes; it has still to prevail over itself. And this is the harder task. Men clamour for liberty, when they mean license; what they seek is the liberty of the flesh, not of the Spirit, freedom to indulge their lusts and to trample on the rights of others, the freedom of outlaws and brigands. The natural man defines freedom as the power to do as he likes; not the right of self-regulation, but the absence of regulation is what he desires. And this is just what the Spirit of God will never allow (Galatians 5:17). When such a man has thrown off outward constraint and the dread of punishment, there is no inward law to take its place. It is his greed, his passion, his pride and ambition that call for freedom; not his conscience. And to all such libertarians our Saviour says, "He that committeth sin is the slave of sin." No tyrant is so vile, so insatiable as our own self-indulged sin. A pitiable triumph, for a man to have secured his religious liberty only to become the thrall of his vices!

It is possible that some men accepted the gospel under the delusion that it afforded a shelter for sin. The sensualist, deterred from his indulgences by fear of the Law, joined in Paul’s campaign against it, imagining that Grace would give him larger freedom. If "where sin abounded grace did super abound," he would say in his heart, Why not sin the more, so that grace might have a greater victory? This is no fanciful inference. Hypocrisy has learned to wear the garb of evangelical zeal; and teachers of the gospel have not always guarded sufficiently against this shocking perversion. Even the man whose heart has been truly touched and changed by Divine grace, when the freshness of his first love to Christ has passed away and temptation renews its assaults, is liable to this deception. He may begin to think that sin is less perilous, since forgiveness was so easily obtained. He may presume that as a son of God, sealed by the Spirit of adoption, he will not be allowed to fall, even though he stumble. He is one of "God’s elect"; what "shall separate him" from the Divine love in Christ? In this assurance he holds a talisman that secures his safety. What need to "watch and pray lest he enter into temptation," when the Lord is his keeper? He is God’s enfranchised son; "all things are lawful" to him; "things present" as well as "things to come" are his in Christ. By such reasonings his liberty is turned into an occasion to the flesh. And men who before they boasted themselves sons of God were restrained by the spirit of bondage and fear, have found in this assurance the occasion, the "starting-point" ( αφορμη) for a more shameless course of evil.

In the view of Legalism, this is the natural outcome of Pauline teaching. From the first it has been charged with fostering lawlessness. In the Lutheran Reformation Rome pointed to the Antinomians, and moralists of our own day speak of "canting Evangelicals," just as the Judaists alleged the existence of immoral Paulinists, whose conduct, they declared, was the proper fruit of the preaching of emancipation from the Law. These, they would say to the Apostle, are your spiritual children; they do but carry your doctrine to its legitimate issue. This reproach the gospel has always had to bear; there have been those, alas! amongst its professors whose behaviour has given it plausibility. Sensualists will "turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness"; swine will trample under their feet the pure pearls of the gospel. But they are pure and precious none the less.

This possibility is, however, a reason for the utmost watchfulness in those who are stewards in the administration of the gospel. They must be careful, like Paul, to make it abundantly clear that they "establish" and do not "make void law through faith". [Romans 3:31] There is an evangelical Ethics, as well as an evangelical Dogmatics. The ethics of the Gospel have been too little studied and applied. Hence much of the confessed failure of evangelical Churches in preserving and building up the converts that they win.

2. Faith in Christ gives in truth a new efficacy to the moral law. For it works through love; and love fulfils all laws in one (Galatians 5:13-14). Where faith has this operation, liberty is safe; not otherwise. Love’s slaves are the true freemen.

The legalist practically takes the same view of human nature as the sensualist. He knows nothing of "the desire of the Spirit" arrayed against that of the flesh (Galatians 5:17) nothing of the mastery over the heart that belongs to the love of Christ. In his analysis the soul consists of so many desires, each blindly seeking its own gratification, which must be drilled into order under external pressure, by an intelligent application of law. Modern Utilitarians agree with the ancient Judaists in their ethical philosophy. Fear of punishment, hope of reward, the influence of the social environment-these are, as they hold, the factors which create character and shape our moral being. "Pain and pleasure," they tell us, "are the masters of human life." Without the faith that man is the child of God, formed in His image, we are practically shut up to this suicidal theory of morals. Suicidal we say, for it robs our spiritual being of everything distinctive in it, of all that raises the moral above the natural; it makes duty and personality illusions.

Judaism is a proof that this scheme of life is impracticable. For the Pharisaic system which produced such deplorable moral results was an experiment in external ethics. It was in fact the application of a highly developed and elaborate traditional code of law, enforced by the strongest outward sanctions, without personal loyalty to the Divine Lawgiver. In the national conscience of the Jews this was wanting. Their faith in God, as the Epistle of James declares, was a "dead" faith, a bundle of abstract notions. Loyalty is true law-keeping. And loyalty springs from the personal relationship of the subject and the law-making power. This nexus Christian sonship supplies, in its purest and most exalted form. When I see in the Lawgiver my Almighty Father, when the law has become incarnate in the person of my Saviour, my heart’s King and, Lord, it wears a changed aspect. "His commandments are not grievous." Duty, required by Him, is honour and delight. No abstract law, no "stream of tendency" can command the homage or awaken the moral energy that is inspired by "the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Here the Apostle traverses antinomian deductions from his doctrine of liberty. In the Epistle to the Romans (6) he deals at length with the theoretical objection to his teaching on this subject. He shows there that salvation by faith, rightly understood and experienced, renders continuance in sin impossible. For faith in Christ is in effect the union of the soul with Christ, first in His death, and then consequently in His risen life, wherein He lives only "to God." Nay, Christ Himself lives in the believing man. [Galatians 2:20] Instead of our sinning "because we are not under the law, but under grace," this is precisely the reason why we need not and must not sin. Faith joins us to the risen Christ, whose life we share-so Paul argues-and we should not sin any more than He. Here, from the practical standpoint, he lays it down that faith works by love; and love casts out sin, for it unites all laws in itself. Faith links us to Christ in heaven (Romans); faith fills us with His love on earth (Galatians). So love, marked out in Galatians 5:6 as the energy of faith, now serves as the guard of liberty. Neither legalist nor lawbreaker understands the meaning of faith in Christ.

At this point Paul throws in one of his bold paradoxes. He has been contending all through the Epistle for freedom, bidding his readers scorn the legal yoke, breathing into them his own contempt for the pettiness of Judaistic ceremonial. But now he turns round suddenly and bids them be slaves: "but let love," be says, "make you bondmen to each other" (Galatians 5:13). Instead of breaking bonds, he seeks to create stronger bonds, stronger because dearer, Paul preaches no gospel of individualism, of egotistic salvation seeking. The self-sacrifice of Christ becomes in turn a principle of sacrifice in those who receive it. Paul’s own ideal is, to be "conformed to His death". [Philippians 3:10] There is nothing anarchic or self-asserting in his plea for freedom. He opposes the law of Pharisaic externalism in the interests of the law of Christian love. The yoke of Judaism must be broken, its bonds east aside, in order to give free play to "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus." Faith transfers authority from flesh to spirit, giving it a surer seat, a more effective, and in reality more lawful command over man’s nature. It restores the normal equipoise of the soul. Now the Divine law is written on "the tablets of the heart"; and this makes it far more sovereign than when engraved on the stone slabs of Sinai. Love and law for the believer in Christ are fused into one. In this union law loses nothing of its holy severity; and love nothing of its tenderness. United they constitute the Christian sense of duty, whose sternest exactions are enforced by gratitude and devotion.

And love is ever conqueror. To it toil and endurance that mock the achievement of other powers, are a light thing. Needing neither bribe nor threat, love labours, waits, braves a thousand dangers, keeps the hands busy, the eye keen and watchful, the feet running to and fro un-tired through the longest day. There is no industry, no ingenuity like that of love. Love makes the mother the slave of the babe at her breast, and wins from the friend for his friend service that no compulsion could exact, rendered in pure gladness and free-will. Its power alone calls forth what is best and strongest in us all. Love is mightier than death. In Jesus Christ love has "laid down life for its friends"; the fulness of life has encountered and overcome the uttermost of death. Love esteems it bondage to be prevented, liberty only to be allowed to serve.

Without love freedom is an empty boon. It brings no ease, no joy of heart. It is objectless and listless. Bereft of faith and love, though possessing the most perfect independence, the soul drifts along like a ship rudderless and masterless, with neither haven nor horizon. Wordsworth, in his "Ode to Duty" has finely expressed the weariness that comes of such liberty, unguided by an inward law and a Divine ideal:

"Me this unchartered freedom tires; I feel the weight of chance desires; My hopes no more must change their name; I long for a repose that ever is the same."

But on the other hand,

"Serene will be our days and bright, And happy will our nature be, When love is an unerring light And joy its own security."

This "royal law" [James 2:8] blends with its sovereignty of power the charm of simplicity. "The whole law," says the Apostle, "hath been fulfilled in one word-Love" (Galatians 5:14). The Master said, "I came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil." The key to His fulfilment was given in the declaration of the twofold command of love to God and to our neighbour. "On these two hang all the law and the prophets." Hence the Apostle’s phrase, "hath been fulfilled." This unification of the moral code is accomplished. Christ’s life and death have given to this truth full expression and universal currency. Love’s fulfilment of law stands before us a positive attainment, an incontestable fact. Paul does not speak here as Romans 13:9, of the comprehending, the "summing up" of all laws in one; but of the bringing of law to its completion, its realisation and consummation in the love of Christ. "O how I love Thy law," said the purer spirit of the Old Testament. "Thy love is my law," says the true spirit of the New.

It is remarkable that this supreme principle of Christian ethics is first enunciated in the most legal part of the Old Testament. Leviticus is the Book of the Priestly Legislation. It is chiefly occupied with ceremonial and civil regulations. Yet in the midst of the legal minutiae is set this sublime and simple rule, than which Jesus Christ could prescribe nothing more Divine: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. [Leviticus 19:18] This sentence is the conclusion of a series of directions (Leviticus 19:9-18) forbidding unneighbourly conduct, each of them sealed with the declaration, "I am Jehovah." This brief code of brotherly love breathes a truly Christian spirit; it is a beautiful expression of "the law of kindness" that is on the lips and in the heart of the child of God. We find in the law book of Mosaism, side by side with elaborate rules of sacrificial ritual and the homeliest details touching the life Of a rude agricultural people, conceptions of God and of duty of surpassing loftiness and purity, such as meet us in the religion of no other ancient nation.

The law, therefore, opposed and cast out in the name of faith, is brought in again under the shield of love. "If ye love Me," said Jesus, "keep my commandments." Love reconciles law and faith. Law by itself can but prohibit this and that injury to one’s neighbour, when they are likely to arise. Love excludes the doing of any injury; it "worketh no ill to its neighbour, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law". [Romans 13:10] That which law restrains or condemns after the fact, love renders impossible beforehand. It is not content with the negative prevention of wrong; it "overcomes" and displaces "evil with good."

"What law could not do," with all its multiplied enactments and redoubled threats, faith "working by love" has accomplished at a stroke. "The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in those who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit". [Romans 8:3-4] Gentile Christians have been raised to the level of a righteousness "exceeding that of scribes and pharisees". [Matthew 5:20] The flesh, which defied law’s terrors and evaded its control, is subdued by the love of Christ. Law created the need of salvation; it defined its conditions and the direction which it must take. But there its power ceased. It could not change the sinful heart. It supplied no motive adequate to secure obedience. The moralist errs in substituting duty for love, works for faith. He would make the rule furnish the motive, the path supply strength to walk in it. The distinction of the gospel is that it is "the power of God unto salvation," while the law is "weak through the flesh."

Paul does not therefore override the law in the interest of faith. Quite the contrary, he establishes, he magnifies it. His theology rests on the idea of Righteousness, which is strictly a legal conception. But he puts the law in its proper place. He secures for it the alliance of love. The legalist, desiring to exalt law, in reality stultifies it. Striving to make it omnipotent, he makes it impotent. In the Apostle’s teaching, law is the rule, faith the spring of action. Law makes the path, love gives the will and power to follow it. Who then are the truest friends of law-Legalists or Paulinists, moralists or evangelicals?

3. Alas, the Galatians at the present moment afford a spectacle far different from the ideal which Paul has drawn. Instead of "serving each other in love," they are "biting and devouring one another." The Church is in danger of being "consumed" by their jealousies and quarrels (Galatians 5:15).

These Asiatic Gauls were men of a warm temperament, quick to resent wrong and prone to imagine it. The dissensions excited by the Judaic controversy had excited their combative temper to an unusual degree. "Biting" describes the wounding and exasperating effect of the manner in which their contentions were carried on; "devour" warns them of its destructiveness. Taunts were hurled across the field of debate; vituperation supplied the lack of argument. Differences of opinion engendered private feuds and rankling injuries. In Corinth the spirit of discord had taken a factious form. It arrayed men in conflicting parties, with their distinctive watchwords and badges and sectional platforms. In these Churches it bore fruit in personal affronts and quarrels, in an angry, vindictive temper, which spreads through the Galatian societies and broke Out in every possible form of contention. [Galatians 5:20]

If this state of things continued, the Churches of Galatia would cease to exist. Their liberty would end in complete disintegration.

Like some other communities, the Galatian Christians were oscillating between despotism and anarchy; they had not attained the equilibrium of a sober, ordered liberty, the freedom of a manly self-control. They had not sufficient respect either for their own or for each other’s rights. Some men must be bridled or they will "bite"; they must wear the yoke or they run wild. They are incapable of being a law unto themselves. They had not faith enough to make them stedfast, nor love enough to be an inward guide, nor the Spirit of God in measure sufficient to overcome the vanity and self-indulgence of the flesh. But the Apostle still hopes to see his Galatian disciples worthy of their calling as sons of God. He points out to them the narrow but sure path that leads between the desert of legalism on the one hand, and the gulf of anarchy and license on the other.

The problem of the nature and conditions of Christian liberty occupies the Apostle’s mind in different ways in all the letters of this period. The young Churches of the Gentiles were in the gravest peril. They had come out of Egypt to enter the Promised Land, the heritage of the sons of God. The Judaists sought to turn them aside into the Sinaitic wilderness of Mosaism; while their old habits and associations powerfully tended to draw them back into heathen immorality. Legalism and license were the Scylla and Charybdis on either hand, between which it needed the most firm and skilful pilotage to steer the bark of the Church. The helm of the vessel is in Paul’s hands. And, through the grace of God, he did not fail in his task. It is in the love of Christ that the Apostle found his guiding light. "Love," he has written, "never faileth."

Love is the handmaid of faith, and the firstborn fruit of the Spirit of Christ (Galatians 5:6; Galatians 5:22). Blending with the law, love refashions it, changing it into its own image. Thus moulded and transfigured, law is no longer an exterior yoke, a system of restraint and penalty; it becomes an inner, sweet constraint. Upon the child of God it acts as an organic and formative energy, the principle of his regenerated being, which charges with its renovating influence all the springs of life. Evil is met no longer by a merely outward opposition, but by a repugnance proceeding from within. "The Spirit lusteth against the flesh". [Galatians 5:17] The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus becomes the law of the man’s new nature. God known and loved in Christ is the central object of his life. Within the Divine kingdom so created, the realm of love and of the Spirit, the soul henceforth dwells; and under that kingdom it places for itself all other souls, loved like itself in Christ.


Verses 16-26

Chapter 23

CHRIST’S SPIRIT AND HUMAN FLESH.

Galatians 5:16-26

LOVE is the guard of Christian freedom. The Holy Spirit is its guide. These principles accomplish what the law could never do. It withheld liberty, and yet did not give purity. The Spirit of love and of sonship bestows both, establishing a happy, ordered freedom, the liberty of the sons of God.

From the first of these two factors of Christian ethics the Apostle passes in Galatians 5:16 to the second. He conducts us from the consequence to the cause, from the human aspect of spiritual freedom to the Divine. Love, he has said, fulfils all laws in one. It casts out evil from the heart; it stays the injurious hand and tongue; and makes it impossible for liberty to give the rein to any wanton or selfish impulse. But the law of love is no natural, automatic impulse. It is a Divine inspiration.." Love is of God." It is the characteristic "fruit of the Spirit" of adoption (Galatians 5:22), implanted and nourished from above. When I bid you "by love serve each other," the Apostle says, I do not expect you to keep this law of yourselves, by force of native goodness: I know how contrary it is to your Galatic nature; "but I say, walk in the Spirit," and this will be an easy yoke; to "fulfil the desire of the flesh" will then be for you a thing impossible.

The word Spirit ( πνευματι) is written indefinitely; but the Galatians knew well what Spirit the Apostle meant. It is "the Spirit" of whom he has spoken so often in this letter, the Holy Spirit of God, who had entered their hearts when they first believed in Christ and taught them to call God Father. He gave them their freedom: He will teach them how to use it. The absence of the definite article in Pneuma does not destroy its personal force, but allows it at the same time a broad, qualitative import, corresponding to that of the opposed "desire of the flesh." The walk governed "by the Spirit" is a spiritual walk. As for the interpretation of the dative case (rendered variously by, or in, or even for the Spirit), that is determined by the meaning of the noun itself. "The Spirit" is not the path in which one walks; rather He supplies the motive principle, the directing influence of the new life. Galatians 5:16 is interpreted by Galatians 5:18; Galatians 5:25. To "walk in the Spirit" is to be "led by the Spirit"; it is so to "live in the Spirit" that one habitually "moves" (marches: ver. 25) under His direction.

This conception of the indwelling Spirit of God as the actuating power of the Christian’s moral life predominates in the rest of this chapter. We shall pursue the general line of the Apostle’s teaching on the subject in the present chapter, leaving for future exposition the detailed enumeration of the "fruit of the Spirit" and "works of the flesh" contained in Galatians 5:19-23. This antithesis of Flesh and Spirit presents the following consideration:-

(1) the diametrical opposition of the two forces;

(2) the effect of the predominance of one or the other;

(3) the mastery over the flesh which belongs to those who are Christ’s. In a word, Christ’s Spirit is the absolute antagonist and the sure vanquisher of our sinful human flesh.

1. "I say, Walk by the Spirit, and you will verily not fulfil the lust of the flesh." On what ground does this bold assurance rest? Because, the Apostle replies, the Spirit and the flesh are opposites (Galatians 5:17). Each is bent on destroying the ascendency of the other. Their cravings and tendencies stand opposed at every point. Where the former rules, the latter must succumb. "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh."

The verb lust in Greek, as in English, bears commonly an evil sense; but not necessarily so, nor by derivation. It is a sad proof of human corruption that in all languages words denoting strong desire tend to an impure significance. Paul extends to "the desire of the Spirit" the term which has just been used of "the lust of the flesh," in this way sharpening the antithesis. Words appropriated to the vocabulary of the flesh and degraded by its use, may be turned sometimes to good account and employed in the service of the Holy Spirit, whose influence redeems our speech and purges the uncleanness of our lips.

The opposition here affirmed exists on the widest scale. All history is a battlefield for the struggle between God’s Spirit and man’s rebellious flesh. In the soul of a half-sanctified Christian, and in Churches like those of Corinth and Galatia whose members are "yet carnal and walk as men," the conflict is patent. The Spirit of Christ has established His rule in the heart; but His supremacy is challenged by the insurrection of the carnal powers. The contest thus revived in the soul of a Christian is internecine; it is that of the kingdoms of light and darkness, of the opposite poles of good and evil. It is an incident in the war of human sin against the Holy Spirit of God, which extends over all time and all human life. Every lust, every act or thought of evil is directed, knowingly or unknowingly, against the authority of the Holy Spirit, against the presence and the rights of God immanent in the creature. Nor is there any restraint upon evil, any influence counteracting it in man or nation or race, which does not proceed from the Spirit of the Lord. The spirit of man has never been without a Divine Paraclete. "God hath not left Himself without witness" to any; and "it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth." The Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit, is the Spirit of all truth and holiness. In the "truth as it is in Jesus" He possesses His highest instrument. But from the beginning it was His office to be God’s Advocate, to uphold law, to convict the conscience, to inspire the hope of mercy, to impart moral strength and freedom. We "believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life."

This war of Spirit and Flesh is first ostensibly declared in the words of Genesis 6:3. This passage indicates the moral reaction of God’s Spirit against the world’s corruption, and the protest which in the darkest periods of human depravity He has maintained. God had allowed men to do despite to His good Spirit. But it cannot always be so. A time comes when, outraged and defied, He withdraws His influence from men and from communities; and the Flesh bears them along to swift destruction. So it was in the world before the Flood. So largely amongst later heathen peoples, when God "suffered all nations to walk in their own ways." Even the Mosaic law had proved rather a substitute than a medium for the free action of the Spirit of God on men. "The law was spiritual," but "weak through the flesh." It denounced the guilt which it was powerless to avert.

With the advent of Christ all this is changed. The Spirit of God is now, for the first time, sent forth in His proper character and His full energy. At last His victory draws near. He comes as the Spirit of Christ and the Father, "poured out upon all flesh." "A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you. I will put My Spirit within you": [Ezekiel 36:25-27] this was the great hope of prophecy; and it is realised. The Spirit of God’s Son regenerates the human heart, subdues the flesh, and establishes the communion of God with men. The reign of the Spirit on earth was the immediate purpose of the manifestation of Jesus Christ.

But what does Paul really mean by "the flesh?" It includes everything that is not "of the Spirit." It signifies the entire potency of sin It is the contra-spiritual, the undivine in man. Its "works," as we find in Galatians 5:20-21, are not bodily vices only, but include every form of moral debasement and aberration. Flesh in the Apostle’s vocabulary follows the term spirit, and deepens and enlarges its meaning precisely as the latter does. Where spirit denotes the super-sensible in man, flesh is the sensible, the bodily nature as such. When spirit rises into the supernatural and superhuman, flesh becomes the natural, the human by consequence. When spirit receives its highest signification, denoting the holy Effluence of God, His personal presence in the world, flesh sinks to its lowest and represents unrenewed nature, the evil principle oppugnant and alien to God. It is identical with sin. But in this profound moral significance the term is more than a figure. Under its use the body is marked out, not indeed as the cause, but as the instrument, the vehicle of sin. Sin has incorporated itself with our organic life, and extends its empire over the material world. When the Apostle speaks of "the body of sin" and "of death," and bids us "mortify the deeds of the body" and "the members which are upon the earth," {See Romans 6:6; Romans 6:12; Romans 7:4; Romans 8:23-24; Romans 8:10-13; Colossians 2:11-13; Colossians 3:5} his expressions are not to be resolved into metaphors.

On this definition of the terms, it is manifest that the antagonism of the Flesh and Spirit is fundamental. They can never come to terms with each other, nor dwell permanently in the same being. Sin must be extirpated or the Holy Spirit will finally depart. The struggle must come to a definitive issue. Human character tends every day to a more determinate form; and an hour comes in each case when the victory of flesh or spirit is irrevocably fixed, when "the filthy" will henceforth "be filthy still," and "the holy, holy still". [Revelation 22:11]

The last clause of Galatians 5:17, "that ye may not do the things that ye would," has been variously interpreted. The rendering of the Authorised Version ("so that ye cannot") is perilously misleading. Is it that the flesh prevents the Galatians doing the good they would? Or is the Spirit to prevent them doing the evil they otherwise would? Or are both these oppositions in existence at once, so that they waver between good and evil, leading a partly spiritual, partly carnal life, consistent neither in right nor wrong? The last is the actual state of the case. Paul is perplexed about them; [Galatians 4:20] they are in doubt about themselves. They did not "walk in the Spirit," they were not true to their Christian principles; the flesh was too strong for that. Nor would they break away from Christ and follow the bent of their lower nature; the Holy Spirit held them back from doing this. So they have two wills, - or practically none. This state of things was designed by God, - "in order that ye may not do the things ye haply would"; it accords with the methods of His government. Irresolution is the necessary effect of the course the Galatians had pursued. So far they stopped short of apostasy; and this restraint witnessed to the power of the Holy Spirit still at work in their midst. [Galatians 3:5; Galatians 6:1] Let this Divine hand cease to check them, and the flesh would carry them, with the full momentum of their will, to spiritual ruin. Their condition is just now one of suspense. They are poised in a kind of moral equilibrium, which cannot continue long, but in which, while it lasts, the action of the conflicting forces of Flesh and Spirit is strikingly manifest.

2. These two principles in their development lead to entirely opposite results.

(1) The works of the flesh- "manifest" alas! both then and now-exclude from the kingdom of God. "I tell you beforehand," the Apostle writes, "as I have already told you: they who practise such things will not inherit God’s kingdom". [Galatians 5:21]

This warning is essential to Paul’s gospel; [Romans 2:16] it is good news for a world where wrong so often and so insultingly triumphs, that there is a judgment to come. Whatever may be our own lot in the great award, we rejoice to believe that there will be a righteous settlement of human affairs, complete and final; and that this settlement is in the hands of Jesus Christ. In view of His tribunal the Apostle goes about "warning and teaching every man." And this is his constant note, amongst profligate heathen, or hypocritical Jews, or backsliding and antinomian Christians, - "The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God." For that kingdom is, above all, righteousness. Men of fleshly minds, in the nature of things, have no place in it. They are blind to its light, dead to its influence, at war with its aims and principles. "If we say that we have fellowship with Him-the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ-and walk in darkness, we lie." [1 John 1:6] "Those who do such things" forfeit by doing them the character of sons of God. His children seek to be "perfect as their heavenly Father is perfect." They are "blameless and harmless, imitators of God, walking in love as Christ loved us." [Philippians 2:15; Ephesians 5:1-2] The Spirit of God’s Son is a spirit of love and peace, of temperance and gentleness. [Galatians 5:22] If these fruits are wanting, the Spirit of Christ is not in us and we are none of His. We are without the one thing by which He said all men would know His disciples. [John 13:35] When the Galatians "bite and devour one another," they resemble Ishmael the persecutor, [Galatians 4:29] rather than the gentle Isaac, heir of the Covenant.

"If children, then heirs." Future destiny turns upon present character. The Spirit of God’s Son, with His fruit of love and peace, is "the earnest of our inheritance, sealing us against the day of redemption". [Ephesians 1:14; Ephesians 4:30] By selfish tempers and fleshly indulgences He is driven from the soul; and losing Him, it is shut out from the kingdom of grace on earth, and from the glory of the redeemed. "There shall in no wise enter into it anything unclean; "such is the excommunication written above the gate of the Heavenly City. [Revelation 21:27] This sentence of the Apocalypse puts a final seal upon the teaching of Scripture. The God of revelation is the Holy One; His Spirit is the Holy Spirit; His kingdom is the kingdom of the saints, whose atmosphere burns like fire against all impurity. Concerning the men of the flesh the Apostle can only say, "Whose end is perdition". [Philippians 3:19]

Writing to the Corinthians, Paul entreats his readers not to be deceived upon this point. [1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Ephesians 5:5] It seems so obvious, so necessary a principle, that one wonders how it should be mistaken, why he is compelled to reiterate it as he does in this place. And yet this has been a common delusion. No form of religion has escaped being touched by Antinomianism. It is the divorce of piety from morality. It is the disposition to think that ceremonial works on the one hand, or faith on the other, supersede the ethical conditions of harmony with God. Foisting itself on evangelical doctrine this error leads men to assume that salvation is the mere pardon of sin. The sinner appears to imagine he is saved in order to remain a sinner. He treats God’s mercy as a kind of bank, on which he may draw as often as his offences past or future may require. He does not understand that sanctification is the sequel of justification, that the evidence of a true pardon lies in a changed heart that loathes sin.

(2) Of the opposite principle the Apostle states not the ultimate, but the more immediate consequences. "Led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law" (Galatians 5:18); and "Against such things-love, peace, goodness, and the like-there is no law" (Galatians 5:23).

The declaration of Galatians 5:18 is made with a certain abruptness. Paul has just said, in Galatians 5:17, that the Spirit is the appointed antagonist of the flesh. And now he adds, that if we yield ourselves to His influence we shall be no longer under the law. This identification of sin and the law was established Galatians 2:16-18; Galatians 3:10-22. The law by itself, the Apostle showed, does not overcome sin, but aggravates it; it shuts men up the hopeless prisoners of their own past misdoing. To be "under law" is to be in the position of Ishmael, the slave-born and finally outcast son, whose nature and temper are of the flesh. [Galatians 4:21-31] After all this we can understand his writing law for sin in this passage, just as in 1 Corinthians 15:56 he calls "the law the power of sin." To be under law was, in Paul’s view, to be held consciously in the grasp of sin. This was the condition of which Legalism would reduce the Galatians. From this calamity the Spirit of Christ would keep them free.

The phrase "under law" reminds us once more of the imperilled liberty of the Galatians. Their spiritual freedom and their moral safety were assailed in common. In Galatians 5:16 he had said, "Let the Holy Spirit guide you, and you will vanquish sin"; and now, "By the same guidance you will escape the oppressive yoke of the law." Freedom from sin, freedom from the Jewish law-these two liberties were virtually one. "Sin shall not lord it over you, because ye are not under law, but under grace". [Romans 6:14] Galatians 5:23 explains this double freedom. Those who possess the Spirit of Christ bear His moral fruits. Their life fulfils the demands of the law, without being due to its compulsion. Law can say nothing against them. It did not produce this fruit; but it is bound to approve it. It has no hold on the men of the Spirit, no charge to bring against them. Its requirements are satisfied; its constraints and threatenings are laid aside.

Law therefore, in its Judaistic sense and application, has been abolished since "faith has come." No longer does it rule the soul by fear and compulsion. This office, necessary once for the infant heirs of the Covenant, it has no right to exercise over spiritual men. Law cannot give. [Galatians 3:21] This is the prerogative of the Spirit of God. Law says, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God"; but it never inspired such love in any man’s breast. If he does so love, the law approves him, without claiming credit to itself for the fact. If he does not love his God, law condemns him and brands him a transgressor. But "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost." The teaching of this paragraph on the relation of the believer in Christ to God’s law is summed up in the words of Romans 8:2 : "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and death." Law has become my friend, instead of my enemy and accuser. For God’s Spirit fills my soul with the love in which its fulfilment is contained. And now eternal life is the goal that stands in my view, in place of the death with the prospect of which, as a man of the flesh, the law appalled me.

3. We see then that deliverance from sin belongs not to the subject of the law, but to the freemen of the Spirit. This deliverance, promised in Galatians 5:16, is declared in Galatians 5:24 as an accomplished fact. "Walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh…They that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and its lusts." The tyranny of the flesh is ended for those who are "in Christ Jesus." His cross has slain their sins. The entrance of His Spirit imports the death of all carnal affections.

"They who are Christ’s did crucify the flesh." This is the moral application of Paul’s mystical doctrine, central to all his theology, of the believer’s union with the Redeemer (see chapter 10). "Christ in me-I in Him": there is Paul’s secret. He was "one spirit" with Jesus Christ-dying; risen, ascended, reigning, returning in glory. His old self, his old world was dead and gone-slain by Christ’s cross, buried in "His grave." [Galatians 2:20; Galatians 6:14] And the flesh, common to the evil world and the evil self-that above all was crucified. The death of shame and legal penalty, the curse, of God had overtaken it in the death of Jesus Christ. Christ had risen, the "Lord of the Spirit," [2 Corinthians 3:18] who "could not be holden" by the death which fell on "the body of His flesh." They who are Christ’s rose with Him; while the flesh of sin stays in His grave. Faith sees it there, and leaves it there. We "reckon ourselves dead unto sin, and living unto God, in Christ Jesus." For such men, the flesh that was once-imperious, importunate, law-defying-is no more. It has received its death-stroke. "God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and a sacrifice for sin, condemned sin in the flesh". [Romans 8:3] Sin is smitten with the lightning of His anger. Doom has taken hold of it. Destroyed already in principle, it only waits for men to know this and to understand what has been done, till it shall perish everywhere. The destruction of the sinful flesh-more strictly of "sin in the flesh"-occurred, as Paul understood the matter, virtually and potentially in the moment of Christ’s death. It was our human flesh that was crucified in Him - slain on the cross because, though in Him not personally sinful, yet in us with whom He had made Himself one, it was steeped in sin. Our sinful flesh hung upon His cross; it has risen, cleansed and sanctified, from His grave.

What was then accomplished in principle when "One died for all," is realised in point of fact when we are "baptised into His death"-when, that is to say, faith makes His death ours and its virtue passes into the soul. The scene of the cross is inwardly rehearsed. The wounds which pierced the Redeemer’s flesh and spirit now pierce our consciences. It is a veritable crucifixion through which the soul enters into communion with its risen Saviour, and learns to live His life. Nor is its sanctification complete till it is "conformed unto His death". [Philippians 3:10] So with all his train of "passions and of lusts," the "old man" is fastened and nailed down upon the new interior Calvary, set up in each penitent and believing heart. The flesh may still, as in these Galatians, give mournful evidence of life. But it has no right to exist a single hour. De jure it is dead-dead in the reckoning of faith. It may die a lingering, protracted death, and make convulsive struggles; but die it must in all who are of Christ Jesus.

Let the Galatians consider what their calling of God signified. Let them recall the prospects which opened before them in the days of their first faith in Christ, the love that glowed in their hearts, the energy with which the Holy Spirit wrought upon their nature. Let them know how truly they were called to liberty, and in good earnest were made sons of God. They have only to continue as heretofore to be led by the Spirit of Christ and to march forward along the path on which they had entered, and neither Jewish law nor their own lawless flesh will be able to bring them into bondage. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." Where He is not, there is legalism, or license; or, it may be, both at once.


Verses 19-21

Chapter 24

THE WORKS OF THE FLESH.

Galatians 5:19-21

THE tree is known by its fruits: the flesh by its "works." And these works are "manifest." The field of the world-"this present evil world" [Galatians 1:4] -exhibits them in rank abundance. Perhaps at no time was the civilised world so depraved and godless as in the first century of the Christian era, when Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, Domitian, wore the imperial purple and posed as masters of the earth. It was the cruelty and vileness of the times which culminated in these deified monsters. By no accident was mankind cursed at this epoch with such a race of rulers. The world that worshipped them was worthy of them. Vice appeared in its most revolting and abandoned forms. Wickedness was rampant and triumphant. The age of the early Roman Empire has left a foul mark in human history and literature. Let Tacitus and Juvenal speak for it.

Paul’s enumeration of the current vices in this passage has, however, a character of its own. It differs from the descriptions drawn by the same hand in other Epistles; and this difference is due doubtless to the character of his readers. Their temperament was sanguine; their disposition frank and impulsive. Sins of lying and injustice, conspicuous in other lists, are not found in this. From these vices the Galatic nature was comparatively free. Sensual sins and sins of passion-unchastity, vindictiveness, intemperance- occupy the field. To these must be added idolatry, common to the Pagan world. Gentile idolatry was allied with the practice of impurity on the one side; and on the other, through the evil of "sorcery," with "enmities" and "jealousies." So that these works of the flesh belong to four distinct types of depravity, three of which come under the head of immorality, while the fourth is the universal principle of Pagan irreligion, being in turn both cause and effect of the moral debasement connected with it.

1. "The works of the flesh are these-fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness." A dark beginning! Sins of impurity find a place in every picture of Gentile morals given by the Apostle. In whatever direction he writes-to Romans or Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, or Thessalonians-it is always necessary to warn against these evils. They are equally "manifest" in heathen literature. The extent to which they stain the pages of the Greek and Roman classics sets a heavy discount against their value as instruments of Christian education. Civilised Society in Paul’s day was steeped in sexual corruption.

Fornication was practically universal. Few were found, even among severe moralists, to condemn it. The overthrow of the splendid classical civilisation, due to the extinction of manly virtues in the dominant race, may be traced largely to this cause. Brave men are the sons of pure women. John in the Apocalypse has written on the brow of Rome, "the great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth," this legend: "Babylon the great, mother of harlots". [Revelation 17:5] Whatever symbolic meaning the saying has, in its literal sense it was terribly true. Our modern Babylons, unless they purge themselves, may earn the same title and the same doom.

In writing to Corinth, the metropolis of Greek licentiousness, Paul deals very solemnly and explicitly with this vice. He teaches that this sin, above others, is committed "against the man’s own body." It is a prostitution of the physical nature which Jesus Christ wore and still wears, which He claims for the temple of His Spirit, and will raise from the dead to share His immortality. Impurity degrades the body, and it affronts in an especial degree "the Holy Spirit which we have from God." Therefore it stands first amongst these "works of the flesh" in which it shows itself hostile and repugnant to the Spirit of our Divine sonship. "Joined to the harlot" in "one body," the vile offender gives himself over in compact and communion to the dominion of the flesh, as truly as he who is "joined to the Lord" is "one Spirit with Him". [1 Corinthians 6:13-20]

On this subject it is difficult to speak faithfully and yet directly. There are many happily in our sheltered Christian homes who scarcely know of the existence of this heathenish vice, except as it is named in Scripture. To them it is an evil of the past, a nameless thing of darkness. And it is well it should be so. Knowledge of its horrors may be suitable for seasoned social reformers, and necessary to the publicist who must understand the worst as well as the best of the world he has to serve; but common decency forbids its being put within the reach of boys and innocent maidens. Newspapers and novels which reek of the divorce-court and trade in the garbage of human life, in "things of which it is a shame even to speak," are no more fit for ordinary consumption than the air of the pesthouse is for breathing. They are sheer poison to the young imagination, which should be fed on whatsoever things are honourable and pure and lovely. But bodily self respect must be learned in good time. Modesty of feeling and chastity of speech must adorn our youth. "Let marriage be honourable in the eyes of all," let the old chivalrous sentiments of reverence and gentleness towards women be renewed in our sons, and our country’s future is safe. Perhaps in our revolt from Mariolatry we Protestants have too much forgotten the honour paid by Jesus to the Virgin Mother, and the sacredness which His birth has conferred on motherhood. "Blessed," said the heavenly voice, "art thou among women." All our sisters are blessed and dignified in her, the holy "mother of our Lord". [Luke 1:42-43]

Wherever, and in whatever form, the offence exists which violates this relationship, Paul’s fiery interdict is ready to be launched upon it. The anger of Jesus burned against this sin. In the wanton look He discerns the crime of adultery, which in the Mosaic law was punished with death by stoning. "The Lord is an avenger in all these things"-in everything that touches the honour of the human person and the sanctity of wedded life. [1 Thessalonians 4:1-8] The interests that abet whoredom should find in the Church of Jesus Christ an organisation pledged to relentless war against them. The man known to practise this wickedness is an enemy of Christ and of his race. He should be shunned as we would shun a notorious liar-or a fallen woman. Paul’s rule is explicit, and binding on all Christians, concerning "the fornicator, the drunkard, the extortioner-with such a one no, not to eat". [1 Corinthians 5:9-11] That Church little deserves the name of a Church of Christ, which has not means of discipline sufficient to fence its communion from the polluting presence of "such a one."

Uncleanness and lasciviousness are companions of the more specific impurity. The former is the general quality of this class of evils, and includes whatever is contaminating in word or look, in gesture or in dress, in thought or sentiment. "Lasciviousness" is uncleanness open and shameless. The filthy jest, the ogling glance, the debauched and sensual face, these tell their own tale; they speak of a soul that has rolled in corruption till respect for virtue has died out of it. In this direction "the works of the flesh" can go no further. A lascivious human creature is loathsomeness itself. To see it is like looking through a door into hell.

A leading critic of our own times has, under this word of Paul’s, put his finger upon the plague-spot in the national life of our Gallic neighbours - Aselgeia, or Wantonness: There may be a certain truth in this charge. Their disposition in several respects resembles that of Paul’s Galatians. But we can scarcely afford to reproach others on this score. English society is none too clean. Home is for our people everywhere, thank God, the nursery of innocence. But outside its shelter, and beyond the reach of the mother’s voice, how many perils await the weak and unwary. In the night-streets of the city the "strange woman" spreads her net, "whose feet go down to death." In workshops and business-offices too often coarse and vile language goes on unchecked, and one unchaste mind will infect a whole circle. Schools, wanting in moral discipline, may become seminaries of impurity. There are crowded quarters in large towns, and wretched tenements in many a country village, where the conditions of life are such that decency is impossible; and a soil is prepared in which sexual sin grows rankly. To cleanse these channels of social life is indeed a task of Hercules; but the Church of Christ is loudly called to it. Her vocation is in itself a purity crusade, a war declared against "all filthiness of flesh and spirit."

2. Next to lust in this procession of the Vices comes idolatry. In Paganism they were associated by many ties. Some of the most renowned and popular cults of the day were open purveyors of sensuality and lent to it the sanctions of religion. Idolatry is found here in fit company. {comp. 1 Corinthians 10:6-8} Peter’s First Epistle, addressed to the Galatian with other Asiatic Churches, speaks of "the desire of the Gentiles" as consisting in "lasciviousness, lusts, wine-bibbings, revellings, carousings, and abominable idolatries". [1 Peter 4:3]

Idolatry forms the centre of the awful picture of Gentile depravity drawn by our Apostle in his letter to Rome (chap. 1) It is, as he there shows, the outcome of man’s native antipathy to the knowledge of God. Willingly men "took lies in the place of truth, and served the creature rather than the Creator." They merged God in nature, debasing the spiritual conception of the Deity with fleshly attributes. This blending of God with the world gave rise, amongst the mass of mankind, to Polytheism; while in the minds of the more reflective it assumed a Pantheistic shape. The manifold of nature, absorbing the Divine, broke it up into "gods many and lords many"-gods of the earth and sky and ocean, gods and goddesses of war, of tillage, of love, of art, of statecraft and handicraft, patrons of human vices and follies as well as of excellences, changing with every climate and with the varying moods and conditions of their worshippers. Nor longer did it appear that God made man in His image; now men made gods in "the likeness of the image of corruptible man, and of winged and four-footed and creeping things."

When at last under the Roman Empire the different Pagan races blended their customs and faiths, and "the Orontes flowed into the Tiber," there came about a perfect chaos of religions. Gods Greek and Roman, Phrygian, Syrian, Egyptian jostled each other in the great cities-a colluvies deorum more bewildering even than the colluvies gentium, each cultus striving to outdo the rest in extravagance and license. The system of classic Paganism was reduced to impotence. The false gods destroyed each other. The mixture of heathen religions, none of them pure, produced complete demoralisation.

The Jewish monotheism remained, the one rock of human faith in the midst of this dissolution of the old nature-creeds. Its conception of the Godhead was not so much metaphysical as ethical. "Hear, O Israel," says every Jew to his fellows, "the Lord our God is one Lord." But that "one Lord" was also "the Holy One of Israel." Let his holiness be sullied, let the thought of the Divine ethical transcendence suffer eclipse, and He sinks back again into the manifold of nature. Till God was manifest in the flesh through the sinless Christ, it was impossible to conceive of a perfect purity allied to the natural. To the mind of the Israelite, God’s holiness was one with the aloneness in which He held Himself sublimely aloof from all material forms, one with the pure spirituality of His being. "There is none holy save the Lord; neither is there any rock like our God": such was his lofty creed. On this ground prophecy carried on its inspired struggle against the tremendous forces of naturalism. When at length the victory of spiritual religion was gained in Israel, unbelief assumed another form; the knowledge of the Divine unity hardened into a sterile and fanatic legalism, into the idolatry of dogma and tradition; and Scribe and Pharisee took the place of Prophet and of Psalmist.

The idolatry and immorality of the Gentile world had a common root. God’s anger, the Apostle declared, blazed forth equally against both. [Romans 1:18] The monstrous forms of uncleanness then prevalent were a fitting punishment, an inevitable consequence of heathen impiety. They marked the lowest level to which human nature can fall in its apostasy from God. Self-respect in man is ultimately based on reverence for the divine. Disowning his Maker, he degrades himself. Bent on evil, he must banish from his soul that warning, protesting image of the Supreme Holiness in which he was created.

"He tempts his reason to deny, God whom his passions dare defy."

"They did not like to retain God in their knowledge." "They loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." These are terrible accusations. But the history of natural religion confirms their truth.

Sorcery is the attendant of idolatry. A low, naturalistic conception of the Divine lends itself to immoral purposes. Men try to operate upon it by material causes, and to make it a partner in evil. Such is the origin of magic. Natural objects deemed to possess supernatural attributes, as the stars and the flight of birds, have divine omens ascribed to them. Drugs of occult power, and things grotesque or curious made mysterious by the fancy, are credited with influence over the Nature-gods. From the use of drugs in incantations and exorcisms the word pharmakeia, here denoting sorcery, took its meaning. The science of chemistry has destroyed a world of magic connected with the virtues of herbs. These superstitions formed a chief branch of sorcery and witchcraft, and have flourished under many forms of idolatry. And the magical arts were common instruments of malice. The sorcerer’s charms were in requisition, as in the case of Balaam, to curse one’s enemies, to weave some spell that should involve them in destruction. Accordingly sorcery finds its place there between idolatry and enmities.

3. On this latter head the Apostle enlarges with edifying amplitude. Enmities, strife, jealousies, ragings, factions, divisions, parties, envyings-what a list! Eight out of fifteen of "the works of the flesh manifest" to Paul in writing to Galatia belong to this one category. The Celt all over the world is known for a hot-tempered fellow. He has high capabilities; he is generous, enthusiastic, and impressionable. Meanness and treachery are foreign to his nature. But he is irritable. And it is in a vain and irritable disposition that these vices are engendered. Strife and division have been proverbial in the history of the Gallic nations. Their jealous temper has too often neutralised their engaging qualities; and their quickness and cleverness have for this reason availed them but little in competition with more phlegmatic races. In Highland clans, in Irish septs, in French wars and Revolutions the same moral features reappear which are found in this delineation of Galatic life. This persistence of character in the races of mankind is one of the most impressive facts of history.

"Enmities" are private hatreds or family feuds, which break out openly in "strife." This is seen in Church affairs, when men take opposite sides not so much from any decided difference of judgment, as from personal dislike and the disposition to thwart an opponent. "Jealousies" and "wraths" (or "rages") are passions attending enmity and strife. There is jealousy where one’s antagonist is a rival, whose success is felt as a wrong to oneself. This may be a silent passion, repressed by pride but consuming the mind inwardly. Rage is the open eruption of anger which, when powerless to inflict injury. will find vent in furious language and menacing gestures. There are natures in which these tempests of rage take a perfectly demonic form. The face grows livid, the limbs move convulsively, the nervous organism is seized by a storm of frenzy; and until it has passed, the man is literally beside himself. Such exhibitions are truly appalling. They are "works of the flesh" in which, yielding to its own ungoverned impulse, it gives itself up to be possessed by Satan and is "set on fire of hell."

Factions, divisions, parties are words synonymous. "Divisions" is the more neutral term, and represents the state into which a community is thrown by the working of the spirit of strife. "Factions" imply more of self-interest and policy in those concerned; "parties" are due rather to self-will and opinionativeness. The Greek word employed in this last instance, as in, 1 Corinthians 11:19, has become our heresies. It does not imply of necessity any doctrinal difference as the ground of the party distinctions in question. At the same time, this expression is an advance on those foregoing, pointing to such divisions as have grown, or threaten to grow into "distinct and organised parties" (Lightfoot).

Envyings (or grudges) complete this bitter series. This term might have found a place betide "enmities" and "strife." Standing where it does, it seems to denote the rankling anger, the persistent ill-will caused by party-feuds. The Galatian quarrels left behind them grudges and "resentments" which became inveterate. These "envyings," the fruit of old contentions, were in turn the seed of new strife. Settled rancour is the last and worst form of contentiousness. It is so much more culpable than "jealousy" or "rage," as it has not the excuse of personal conflict; and it does not subside, as the fiercest outburst of passion may, leaving room for forgiveness. It nurses its revenge, waiting, like Shylock, for the time when it shall "feed fat its ancient grudge."

"Where jealousy and faction are, there," says James, "is confusion and every vile deed." This was the state of things to which the Galatian societies were tending. The Judaisers had sown the seeds of discord and they had fallen on congenial soil. Paul has already invoked Christ’s law of love to exorcise this spirit of destruction (Galatians 5:13-15). He tells the Galatians that their vainglorious and provoking attitude towards each other and their envious disposition are entirely contrary to the life in the Spirit which they professed to lead (Galatians 5:25-26), and fatal to the existence of the Church. These were the "passions of the flesh" which most of all they needed to crucify.

4. Finally we come to sins of intemperance-drunkenness, revellings, and the like.

These are the vices of a barbarous people. Our Teutonic and Celtic forefathers were alike prone to this kind of excess. Peter warns the Galatians against "wine-bibbings, revellings, carousings." The passion for strong drink, along with "lasciviousness" and "lusts" on the one hand, and "abominable idolatries" on the other, had in Asia Minor swelled into a "cataclysm of riot," overwhelming the Gentile world. [1 Peter 4:3-4] The Greeks were a comparatively sober people. The Romans were more notorious for gluttony than for hard drinking. The practice of seeking pleasure in intoxication is a remnant of savagery, which exists to a shameful extent in our own country. It appears to have been prevalent with the Galatians, whose ancestors a few generations back were northern barbarians.

A strong and raw animal nature is in itself a temptation to this vice. For men exposed to cold and hardship, the intoxicating cup has a potent fascination. The flesh, buffeted by the fatigues of a rough day’s work, finds a strange zest in its treacherous delights. The man "drinks and forgets his poverty, and remembers his misery no more." For the hour, while the spell is upon him, he is a king; he lives under another sun; the world’s wealth is his. He wakes up to find himself a sot! With racked head and unstrung frame he returns to the toil and squalor of his life, adding new wretchedness to that he had striven to forget. Anon he says, "I will seek it yet again!" When the craving has once mastered him, its indulgence becomes his only pleasure. Such men deserve our deepest pity. They need for their salvation all the safeguards that Christian sympathy and wisdom can throw around them.

There are others "given to much wine," for whom one feels less compassion. Their convivial indulgences are a part of their general habits of luxury and sensuality, an open, flagrant triumph of the flesh over the Spirit. These sinners require stern rebuke and warning. They must understand that "those who practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God," that "he who soweth to his own flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption." Of these and their like it was that Jesus said, "Woe unto you that laugh now; for ye shall mourn and weep."

Our British Churches at the present time are more alive to this than perhaps to any other social evil. They are setting themselves sternly against drunkenness, and none too soon. Of all the works of the flesh this has been, if not the most potent, certainly the most conspicuous in the havoc it has wrought amongst us. Its ruinous effects are "manifest" in every prison and asylum, and in the private history of innumerable families in every station of life. Who is there that has not lost a kinsman, a friend, or at least a neighbour or acquaintance, whose life was wrecked by this accursed passion? Much has been done, and is doing, to check its ravages. But more remains to be accomplished before civil law and public opinion shall furnish all the protection against this evil necessary for a people so tempted by climate and by constitution as our own.

With fornication at the beginning and drunkenness at the end, Paul’s description of "the works of the flesh" is, alas! far indeed from being out of date. The dread procession of the Vices marches on before our eyes. Races and temperaments vary; science has transformed the visible aspect of life; but the ruling appetites of human nature are unchanged, its primitive vices are with us to-day. The complicated problems of modern life, the gigantic evils which confront our social reformers, are simply the primeval corruptions of mankind in a new guise-the old lust and greed and hate. Under his veneer of manners, the civilised European, untouched by the grace of the Holy Spirit of God, is still apt to be found a selfish, cunning, unchaste, revengeful, superstitious creature, distinguished from his barbarian progenitor chiefly by his better dress and more cultivated brain, and his inferior agility. Witness the great Napoleon, a very "god of this world," but in all that gives worth to character no better than a savage!

With Europe turned into one vast camp and its nations groaning audibly under the weight of their armaments, with hordes of degraded women infesting the streets of its cities, with discontent and social hatred smouldering throughout its industrial populations, we have small reason to boast of the triumphs of modern civilisation. Better circumstances do not make better men. James’ old question has for our day a terrible pertinence: "Whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your pleasures that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and covet, and cannot obtain. Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may spend it on your pleasures."


Verse 22-23

Chapter 25

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT.

Galatians 5:22-23

"THE tree is known by its fruits." Such was the criterion of religious profession laid down by the Founder of Christianity. This test His religion applies in the first instance to itself. It proclaims a final judgment for all men; it submits itself to the present judgment of all men-a judgment resting in each case on the same ground, namely that of fruit, of moral issue and effects. For character is the true summum bonum; it is the thing which in our secret hearts and in our better moments we all admire and covet. The creed which produces the best and purest character, in the greatest abundance and under the most varied conditions, is that which the world will believe.

These verses contain the ideal of character furnished by the gospel of Christ. Here is the religion of Jesus put in practice. These are the sentiments and habits, the views of duty, the temper of mind, which faith in Jesus Christ tends to form. Paul’s conception of the ideal human life at once "commends itself to every man’s conscience." And he owed it to the gospel of Christ, His ethics art the fruit of his dogmatic faith. What other system of belief has produced a like result, or has formed in men’s minds ideas of duty so reasonable and gracious, so just, so balanced and perfect, and above all so practicable, as those inculcated in the Apostle’s teaching?

"Men do not gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles." Thoughts of this kind, lives of this kind, are not the product of imposture or delusion. The "works" of systems of error are "manifest" in the moral wrecks they leave behind them, strewing the track of history. But the virtues here enumerated are the fruits which the Spirit of Christ has brought forth, and brings forth at this day more abundantly than ever. As a theory of morals, a representation of what is best in conduct, Christian teaching has held for 1800 years an unrivalled place. Christ and His Apostles are still the masters of morality. Few have been bold enough to offer any improvements on the ethics of Jesus; and smaller still has been the acceptance which their proposals have obtained. The new idea of virtue which Christianity has given to the world, the energy it has imparted to the moral will, the immense and beneficial revolutions it has brought about in human society, supply a powerful argument for its divinity. Making every deduction for unfaithful Christians, who dishonour "the worthy name" they bear, still "the fruit of the Spirit" gathered in these eighteen centuries is a glorious witness to the virtue of the tree of life from which it grew.

This picture of the Christian life takes its place side by side with others found in Paul’s Epistles. It recalls the figure of Charity in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, acknowledged by moralists of every school to be a masterpiece of characterisation. It stands in line also with the oft-quoted enumeration of Philippians 4:8 : "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are reverend, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are chaste, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are kindly spoken, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." These representations do not pretend to theoretical completeness. It would be easy to specify important virtues not mentioned in the Apostle’s categories. His descriptions have a practical aim, and press on the attention of his readers the special forms and qualities of virtue demanded from them, under the given circumstances, by their faith in Christ.

It is interesting to compare the Apostle’s definitions with Plato’s celebrated scheme of the four cardinal virtues. They are wisdom, courage, temperance, with righteousness as the union and co-ordination of the other three. The difference between the cast of the Platonic and Pauline ethics is most instructive. In the Apostle’s catalogue the first two of the philosophical virtues are wanting; unless "courage" be included, as it properly may, under the name of "virtue" in the Philippian list. With the Greek thinker, wisdom is the fundamental excellence of the soul. Knowledge is in his view the supreme desideratum, the guarantee for moral health and social well-being. The philosopher is the perfect man, the proper ruler of, the commonwealth. Intellectual culture brings in its train ethical improvement. For "no man is knowingly vicious": such was the dictum of Socrates, the father of Philosophy. In the ethics of the gospel, love becomes the chief of virtues, parent of the rest.

Love and humility are the two features whose predominance distinguishes the Christian from the purest classical conceptions of moral worth. The ethics of Naturalism know love as a passion, a sensuous instinct ( ερως); or again, as the personal affection which binds friend to friend through common interest or resemblance of taste and disposition ( φιλια). Love in its highest sense ( αγαπη). Christianity has re-discovered, finding in it a universal law for the reason and spirit. It assigns to this principle a like place to that which gravitation holds in the material universe, as the attraction which binds each man to his Maker and to his fellows. Its obligations neutralise self-interest and create a spiritual solidarity of mankind, centring in Christ, the God-man. Pre-Christian philosophy exalted the intellect, but left the heart cold and vacant, and. the deeper springs of will untouched. It was reserved for Jesus Christ to teach men how to love, and in love to find the law of freedom.

If love was wanting in natural ethics, humility was positively excluded. The pride of philosophy regarded it as a vice rather than a virtue. "Lowliness" is ranked with "pettiness" and "repining" and "despondency" as the product of "littleness of soul." On the contrary, the man of lofty soul is held up to admiration, who is "worthy of great things and deems himself so,"-who is "not given to wonder, for nothing seems great to him,"-who is "ashamed to receive benefits," and "has the appearance indeed of being supercilious" (Aristotle). How far removed is ‘this model from our Example who has said, "Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart." The classical idea of virtue is based on the greatness of man; the Christian, on the goodness of God. Before the Divine glory in Jesus Christ the soul of the believer bows in adoration. It is humbled at the throne of grace, chastened into self-forgetting. It gazes oft this Image of love and holiness till it repeats itself within the heart.

Nine virtues are woven together in this golden chain of the Holy Spirit’s fruit. They fall into three groups of three, four, and two respectively-according as they refer primarily to God, love, joy, peace; to one’s fellowmen, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faith; and to oneself, meekness, temperance. But the successive qualities are so closely linked and pass into one another with so little distance, that it is undesirable to emphasise the analysis; and while bearing the above distinctions in mind, we shall seek to give to each of the nine graces its separate place in the catalogue.

1. The fruit of the Spirit is love. That fitliest first. Love is the Alpha and Omega of the Apostle’s thoughts concerning the new life in Christ. This queen of graces is already enthroned within this chapter. In Galatians 5:6 Love came forward to be the minister of Faith; in Galatians 5:14 it reappeared as the ruling principle of Divine law. These two offices of love are united here, where it becomes the prime fruit of the Holy Spirit of God, to whom the heart is opened by the act of faith, and who enables us to keep God’s law. Love is "the fulfilling of the law"; for it is the essence of the gospel; it is the spirit of sonship; without this Divine affection, no profession of faith, no practice of good works has any value in the sight of God or intrinsic moral worth. Though I have all other gifts and merits-wanting this, "I am nothing". [1 Corinthians 13:1-3] The cold heart is dead. Whatever appears to be Christian that has not the love of Christ, is an unreality-a matter of orthodox opinion or mechanical performance-dead as the body without the spirit. In all true goodness there is an element of love. Here then, is the fountain-head of Christian virtue, the "well of water springing up into eternal life" which Christ opens in the believing soul, from which flow so many bounteous streams of mercy and good fruits.

This love is, in the first instance and above all, love to God. It springs from the knowledge of His love to man. "God is love," and "love is of God." [1 John 4:7-8] All love flows from one fountain, from the One Father. And the Father’s love is revealed in the Son. Love has the cross for its measure and standard. "He sent the Only-Begotten into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love: hereby know we love". [1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10] The man who knows this love, whose heart responds to the manifestation of God in Christ, is "born of God." His soul is ready to become the abode of all pure affections, his life the exhibition of all Christlike virtues. For the love of the Father is revealed to him; and the love of a son is enkindled in his soul by the Spirit of the Son.

In Paul’s teaching, love forms the antithesis to knowledge. By this opposition the wisdom of God is distinguished from "the wisdom of this world and of its princes, which come to nought". [1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 2:8; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 8:3] Not that love despises knowledge, or seeks to dispense with it. It requires knowledge beforehand in order to discern its object, and afterwards to understand its work. So the Apostle prays for the Philippians "that their love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment". [Philippians 1:9-10] It is not love without knowledge, heat without light, the warmth of an ignorant, untempered zeal that the Apostle desiderates. But he deplores the existence of knowledge without love, a clear head with a cold heart, an intellect whose growth has left the affections starved and stunted, with enlightened apprehensions of truth that awaken no corresponding emotions. Hence comes the pride of reason, the "knowledge that puffeth up." Love alone knows the art of building up.

Loveless knowledge is not wisdom. For wisdom is lowly in her own eyes, mild and gracious. What the man of cold intellect sees, he sees clearly; he reasons on it well. But his data are defective. He discerns but the half, the poorer half of life. There is a whole heaven of facts of which he takes no account. He has an acute and sensitive perception of phenomena coming within the range of his five senses, and of everything that logic can elicit from such phenomena. But he "cannot see afar off." Above all, "he that loveth not, knoweth not God." He leaves out the Supreme Factor in human life; and all his calculations are vitiated. "Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? "

If knowledge then is the enlightened eye, love is the throbbing, living heart of Christian goodness.

2. The fruit of the Spirit is joy. Joy dwells in the house of Love; nor elsewhere will she tarry.

Love is the mistress both of joy and sorrow. Wronged, frustrated, hers is the bitterest of griefs. Love makes us capable of pain and shame; but equally of triumph and delight. Therefore the Lover of mankind was the "Man of sorrows," whose love bared its breast to the arrows of scorn and hate; and yet "for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame." There was no sorrow like that of Christ rejected and crucified; no joy like the joy of Christ risen and reigning. This joy, the delight of love satisfied in those it loves, is that whose fulfilment He has promised to His disciples. [John 15:8-11]

Such joy the selfish heart never knows. Life’s choicest blessings, heaven’s highest favours fail to bring it happiness. Sensuous gratification, and even intellectual pleasure by itself, wants the true note of gladness. There is nothing that thrills the whole nature, that stirs the pulses of life and sets them dancing, like the touch of a pure love. It is the pearl of great price, for which "if a man would give all the substance of his house, he would be utterly contemned." But of all the joys love gives to life, that is the deepest which is ours when "the love of God is shed abroad in our heart." Then the full tide of blessedness pours into the human spirit. Then we know of what happiness our nature was made capable, when we know the love that God hath toward us.

This joy in the Lord quickens and elevates, while it cleanses, all other emotions. It raises, the whole temperature of the heart. It gives a new glow to life. It lends a warmer and a purer tone to our natural affections. It sheds a diviner meaning, a brighter aspect over the common face of earth and sky. It throws a radiance of hope upon the toils and weariness of mortality. It "glories in tribulation." It triumphs in death. He who "lives in the Spirit’" cannot be a dull, or peevish, or melancholy man. One with Christ his heavenly Lord, he begins already to taste His joy, - a joy which none taketh away and which many sorrows cannot quench.

Joy is the beaming countenance, the elastic step, the singing voice of Christian goodness.

1. But joy is a thing of seasons. It has its ebb and flow, and would not be itself if it were constant. It is crossed, varied, shadowed unceasingly. On earth sorrow ever follows its track, as night chases day. No one knew this better than Paul. "Sorrowful," he says of himself, [2 Corinthians 6:10] "yet always rejoicing": a continual alternation, sorrow threatening every moment to extinguish, but serving to enhance, his joy. Joy leans upon her graver sister Peace.

2. There is nothing fitful or febrile in the quality of Peace. It is a settled quiet of the heart, a deep, brooding mystery that "passeth all understanding," the stillness of eternity entering the spirit, the Sabbath of God. [Hebrews 4:9] It is theirs who are "justified by faith". [Romans 5:1-2] It is the bequest of Jesus Christ. [John 14:27] He "made peace for us through the blood of His cross." He has reconciled us with the eternal law, with the Will that rules all things without effort or disturbance. We pass from the region of misrule and mad rebellion into the kingdom of the Son of God’s love, with its ordered freedom, its clear and tranquil light, its "central peace, subsisting at the heart of endless agitation." After the war of the passions, after the tempest of doubt and fear, Christ has spoken, "Peace, be still!" A great calm spreads over the troubled waters; wind and wave lie down hushed at His feet. The demonic powers that lashed the soul into tumult, vanish before His holy presence. The Spirit of Jesus takes possession of mind and heart and will. And His fruit is peace-always peace. This one virtue takes the place of the manifold forms of contention which makes life a chaos and a misery. While He rules, "the peace of God guards the heart and thoughts" and holds them safe from inward mutiny, outward assault; and the dissolute, turbulent train of the works of the flesh find the gates of the soul barred against them. Peace is the calm, unruffled brow, the poised and even temper which Christian goodness wears.

3. The heart, at peace with God has patience with men. Charity "suffereth long." She is not provoked by opposition; nor soured by injustice; no, nor crushed by men’s contempt. She can afford to wait; for truth and love will conquer in the end. She knows in whose hand her cause is, and remembers how long He has suffered the unbelief and rebellion of an insensate world; she "considers Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself." Mercy and longsuffering are qualities that we share with God Himself, in which God was, and is, "manifest in the flesh." In this ripe fruit of the Spirit there are joined "the love of God, and the patience of Christ." [2 Thessalonians 3:5]

Longsuffering is the patient magnanimity of Christian goodness, the broad shoulders on which it "beareth all things". [1 Corinthians 13:7]

1. "Charity suffereth long and is kind." Gentleness (or kindness, as the word is more frequently and better rendered,) resembles "longsuffering" in finding its chief objects in the evil and unthankful. But while the latter is passive and self-contained, kindness is an active, busy virtue. She is moreover of a humble and tender spirit, stooping to the lowest need, thinking nothing too small in which she may help, ready to give back blessing for cursing, benefit for harm and wrong.

2. Kindness is the thoughtful insight, the delicate tact, the gentle ministering hand of Charity.

1. Linked with kindness comes goodness, which is its other self, differing from it only as twin sisters may, each fairer for the beauty of the other. Goodness is perhaps more affluent, more catholic in its bounty; kindness more delicate and discriminating. The former looks to the benefit conferred, seeking to make it as large and full as possible; the latter has respect to the recipients, and studies to suit their necessity. While kindness makes its opportunities, and seeks out the most needy and miserable, goodness throws its doors open to all comers. Goodness is the more masculine and large-hearted form of charity; and if it errs, errs through blundering and want of tact. Kindness is the more feminine; and may err through exclusiveness and narrowness of view. United, they are perfect.

2. Goodness is the honest, generous face, the open hand of Charity..

3. This procession of the Virtues has conducted us, in the order of Divine grace, from the thought of a loving, forgiving God, the Object of our love, our joy and peace, to that of an evil-doing, unhappy world, with its need of longsuffering and "kindness"; and we now come to the inner, sacred circle of brethren beloved in Christ, where, with goodness, faith- that is, trustfulness, confidence- is called into exercise.

The Authorised rendering "faith" seems to us in this instance preferable to the "faithfulness" of the Revisers. "Possibly," says Bishop Lightfoot, " πιστις may here signify ‘trustfulness, reliance,’ in one’s dealings with others; comp. 1 Corinthians 13:7;" we should prefer to say "probably," or even "unmistakably," to this. The use of pistis in any other sense is rare and doubtful in Paul’s Epistles. It is true that "God" or "Christ" is elsewhere implied as the object of faith; but where the word stands, as it does here, in a series of qualities belonging to human relationships, it finds, in agreement with its current meaning, another application. As a link between goodness and meekness, trustfulness, and nothing else, appears to be in place. The parallel expression of 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, of which chapter we find so many echoes in the text, we take to be decisive: "Charity believeth all things."

The faith that unites man to God, in turn joins man to his fellows. Faith in the Divine Fatherhood becomes trust in the human brotherhood. In this generous attribute the Galatians were sadly deficient. "Honour all men," wrote Peter to them; "love the brotherhood". [1 Peter 2:17] Their factiousness and jealousies were the exact opposite of this fruit of the Spirit. Little was there to be found in them of the love that "envieth and vaunteth not," which "imputeth not evil, nor rejoiceth in unrighteousness," which "beareth, believeth, hopeth, endureth all things." They needed more faith in man, as well as in God.

The true heart knows how to trust. He who doubts every one is even more deceived than the man who blindly confides in every one. There is no more miserable vice than cynicism; no man more ill-conditioned than he who counts all the world knaves or fools except himself. This poison of mistrust, this biting acid of scepticism is a fruit of irreligion. It is one of the surest signs of social and national decay.

The Christian man knows not only how to stand alone and to "bear all things," but also how to lean on others, strengthening himself by their strength and supporting them in weakness. He delights to "think others better" than himself; and here "meekness" is one with "faith." His own goodness gives him an eye for everything that is best in those around him.

Trustfulness is the warm, firm clasp of friendship, the generous and loyal homage which goodness ever pays to goodness.

3. Meekness, as we have seen, is the other side of faith. It is not tameness and want of spirit, as those who "judge after the flesh" are apt to think. Nor is meekness the mere quietness of a retiring disposition. "The man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth." It comports with the highest courage and activity; and is a qualification for public leadership. Jesus Christ stands before us as the perfect pattern of meekness. "I intreat you," pleads the Apostle with the self-asserting Corinthians, "by the meekness and gentleness of Christ!" Meekness is self-repression in view of the claims and needs of others; it is the "charity" which "seeketh not her own, looketh not to her own things, but to the things of others." For her, self is of no account in comparison with Christ and His kingdom, and the honour of His brethren.

Meekness is the content and quiet mien, the willing self-effacement that is the mark of Christlike goodness.

4. Finally temperance, or self-control, - third of Plato’s cardinal virtues.

By this last link the chain of the virtues, at its higher end attached to the throne of the Divine love and mercy, is fastened firmly down into the actualities of daily habit and bodily regimen. Temperance, to change the figure, closes the array of the graces, holding the post of the rear-guard which checks all straggling and protects the march from surprise and treacherous overthrow.

If meekness is the virtue of the whole man as he stands before his God and in the midst of his fellows, temperance is that of his body, the tenement and instrument of the regenerate spirit, It is the antithesis of "drunkenness and revellings," which closed the list of "works of the flesh," just as the preceding graces, from "peace" to "meekness," are opposed to the multiplied forms of "enmity" and "strife." Amongst ourselves very commonly the same limited contrast is implied. But to make "temperance" signify only or chiefly the avoidance of strong drink is miserably to narrow its significance. It covers the whole range of moral discipline, and concerns every sense and passion of our nature. Temperance is a practised mastery of self. It holds the reins of the chariot of life. It is the steady and prompt control of the outlooking, sensibilities and appetencies, and inwardly moving desires. The tongue, the hand and foot, the eye, the temper, the tastes and affections, all require in turn to feel its curb. He is a temperate man, in the Apostle’s meaning, who holds himself well in hand, who meets temptation as a disciplined army meets the shock of battle, by skill and alertness and tempered courage baffling the forces that outnumber it.

This also is a "fruit of the Spirit"-though we may count it the lowest and least, yet as indispensable to our salvation as the love of God itself. For the lack of this safeguard how many a saint has stumbled into folly and shame! It is no small thing for the Holy Spirit to accomplish in us, no mean prize for which we strive in seeking the crown of a perfect self-control. This mastery over the flesh is in truth the rightful prerogative of the human spirit, the dignity from which it fell through sin, and which the gift of the Spirit of Christ restores.

And this virtue in a Christian man is exercised for the behoof of others, as well as for his own. "I keep my body under," cries the Apostle, "I make it my slave and not my master; lest, having preached to others, I myself should be a castaway"-that is self-regard, mere common prudence; but again, "It is good not to eat flesh, nor drink wine, nor to do anything whereby a brother is made to stumble or made weak." [Romans 14:21]

Temperance is the guarded step, the sober, measured walk in which Christian goodness keeps the way of life, and makes straight paths for stumbling and straying feet.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Galatians 5:4". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/galatians-5.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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