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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE GALATIANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 3
Verse 3. Are ye so foolish? Can it be that you are so unwise? The idea is, that Paul hardly thought it credible that they could have pursued such a course. They had so cordially embraced the gospel when he preached to them, they had given such evidences that they were under its influence, that he regarded it as hardly possible that they should have so far abandoned it as to embrace such a system as they had done.
Having begun in the Spirit. That is, when the gospel was first preached to them. They had commenced their professedly Christian life under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and with the pure and spiritual worship of God. They had known the power and spirituality of the glorious gospel. They had been renewed by the Spirit; sanctified in some measure by him; and had submitted themselves to the spiritual influences of the gospel.
Are ye now made perfect. Tindal renders this, "ye would now end." The word here used epitelew, means, properly, to bring through to an end, to finish; and the sense here has probably been expressed by Tindal. The idea of perfecting, in the sense in which we now use that word, is not implied in the original. It is that of finishing, ending, completing; and the sense is,
"You began your Christian career under the elevated and
spiritual influences of Christianity, a system so pure
and so exalted above the carnal ordinances of the Jews.
Having begun thus, can it be that you are finishing your
Christian course, or carrying it on to completion by the
observance of those ordinances, as if they were more pure
and elevating than Christianity? Can it be that you
regard them as an advance on the system of the gospel?"
By the flesh. By the observance of the carnal rites of the Jews—- for so the word here evidently means. This has not been an uncommon thing. Many have been professedly converted by the Spirit, and have soon fallen into the observance of mere rites and ceremonies, and depended mainly on them for salvation. Many churches have commenced their career in an elevated and spiritual manner, and have ended in the observance of mere forms. So many Christians begin their course in a spiritual manner, and end it "in the flesh" in another sense. They soon conform to the world. They are brought under the influence of worldly appetites and propensities. They forget the spiritual nature of their religion; and they live for the indulgence of ease, and for the gratification of the senses. They build themselves houses, and they "plant vineyards," and they collect around them the instruments of music, and the bowl and the wine is in their feasts, and they surrender themselves to luxury of living; and it seems as if they intended to perfect their Christianity by drawing around them as much of the world as possible. The beautiful simplicity of their early piety is gone. The blessedness of those moments when they lived by simple faith has fled. The times when they sought all their consolation in God are no more; and they now seem to differ from the world only in form. I dread to see a Christian inherit much wealth, or even to be thrown into very prosperous business. I see in it a temptation to build himself a splendid mansion, and to collect around him all that constitutes luxury among the people of the world. How natural for him to fed that if he has wealth like others, he should show it in a similar manner! And how easy for the most humble and spiritually-minded Christian, in the beginning of his Christian life, to become conformed to the world, (such is the weakness of human nature in its best forms;) and having begun in the Spirit, to end in the flesh !
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