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Galatians 5:13-18

13. For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

13. Vos enim in libertatem vocati estis, fratres; tantum ne libertatem in occasionem detis carni, sed per charitatem servite vobis invicem.

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

14. Nam tota Lex in uno verbo completur, nempe hoc: Diliges proximum tuum sicut to ipsum.

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

15. Quodsi alius alium vicissim mordetis et devoratis, videte, ne vicissim alius ab alio consumamini.

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

16. Dico autem: Spiritu ambulate; et concupiscentiam carnis non perficietis.

17. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

17. Nam care concupiscit adversus Spiritum; Spiritus antem adversus carnem; haec mutuo inter se adversantur; ut non, qnaecunqne volueritis, eadem faciails.

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

18. Quod si Spiritu ducimini, non estis sub Lege.

 

13. Ye have been called to liberty. He now proceeds to show in what way liberty must be used. In the course of expounding the First Epistle to the Corinthians, we have pointed out that liberty is one thing, and that the use of it is another thing. Liberty lies in the conscience, and looks to God; the use of it lies in outward matters, and deals not with God only, but with men. Having exhorted the Galatians to suffer no diminution of their liberty, he now enjoins them to be moderate in the use of it, and lays down as a rule for the lawful use, that it shall not be turned into pretext or occasion for licentiousness. Liberty is not granted to the flesh, which ought rather to be held captive under the yoke, but is a spiritual benefit, which none but pious minds are capable of enjoying.

But by love. The method here explained of restraining liberty from breaking out into wide and licentious abuse is, to have it regulated by love. Let us always remember that the present question is not, in what manner we are free before God, but in what manner we may use our liberty in our intercourse with men. A good conscience submits to no slavery; but to practice outward slavery, or to abstain from the use of liberty, is attended by no danger. In a word, if “by love we serve one another,” we shall always have regard to edification, so that we shall not grow wanton, but use the grace of God for his honor and the salvation of our neighbors.

14. For all the law. There is a contrast in this verse, though not plainly stated, yet evidently to be understood, between Paul’s exhortation and the doctrine of the false apostles. While they insisted on ceremonies alone, Paul takes a passing glance of the actual duties and exercises of Christians. The present commendation of love is intended to inform the Galatians, that love forms the chief part of Christian perfection. But we must inquire in to the reason why all the precepts of the law are included under love. The law consists of two tables, the first of which instructs us concerning the worship of God and the duties of piety, and the second instructs us concerning the love of our neighbor; for it is ridiculous to make a part the same with the whole. Some avoid this difficulty by reminding us that the first table contains nothing more than to love God with our whole heart. But Paul makes express mention of love to our neighbor, and therefore a more satisfactory solution must be sought.

Piety to God, I acknowledge, ranks higher than love of the brethren; and therefore the observance of the first table is more valuable in the sight of God than the observance of the second. But as God himself is invisible, so piety is a thing hidden from the eyes of men; and, though the manifestation of it was the purpose for which ceremonies were appointed, they are not certain proofs of its existence. It frequently happens, that none are more zealous and regular in observing ceremonies than hypocrites. God therefore chooses to make trial of our love to himself by that love of our brother, which he enjoins us to cultivate. This is the reason why, not here only, but in the Epistle to the Romans, (Romans 8:8, 13:10,) love is called “the fulfilling of the law;” not that it excels, but that it proves the worship of God to be real. God, I have said, is invisible; but he represents himself to us in the brethren, and in their persons demands what is due to himself. Love to men springs only from the fear and love of God; and therefore we need not wonder if, by a figure of speech, in which a part is taken for the whole, the effect include under it the cause of which it is the sign. But it would be wrong in any person to attempt to separate our love of God from our love of men.

Thou shalt love thy neighbor. He who loves will render to every man his right, will do injury or harm to no man, will do good, as far as lies in his power, to all; for what else is included in the whole of the second table? This, too, is the argument employed by Paul in his Epistle to the Romans (Romans 13:10.) The word, neighbor, includes all men living; for we are linked together by a common nature, as Isaiah reminds us, “that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh” (Isaiah 58:7.) The image of God ought to be particularly regarded as a sacred bond of union; but, for that very reason, no distinction is here made between friend and foe, nor can the wickedness of men set aside the right of nature.

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”. The love which men naturally cherish toward themselves ought to regulate our love of our neighbor. All the doctors of the Sorbonne 8888     The College of the Sorbonne, in Paris, takes its name from Robert de Serbonne, who founded it in the middle of the thirteenth century. Its reputation for theological learning, philosophy, classical literature, and all that formerly constituted a liberal education, was deservedly high. In the Doctors of the Sorbonne the Reformation found powerful adversaries. The very name of this university, to which the greatest scholars in Europe were accustomed to pay deference, would be regarded by the multitude with blind veneration. If such men as Calvin, Beza, Melanchthon, and Luther, were prepared by talents and acquirements of the first order to brave the terrors of that name, they must have frequently lamented its influence on many of their hearers. Yet our author meets undaunted this formidable array, and enters the field with the full assurance of victory. Despising, as we naturally do, the weak superstitions and absurd tenets held by the Church of Rome, we are apt to underrate our obligations to the early champions of the Reformed faith, who encountered, with success, those veteran warriors, and ‘contended earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints.’ (Jude 1:3.)” — Ed. are in the habit of arguing that, as the rule is superior to what it directs, the love of ourselves must always hold the first rank. This is not to interpret, but to subvert our Lord’s words. They are asses, and have not even a spark of the love of their neighhour; for if the love of ourselves were the rule, it would follow that it is proper and holy, and is the object of the divine approbation. But we shall never love our neighbors with sincerity, according to our Lord’s intention, till we have corrected the love of ourselves. The two affections are opposite and contradictory; for the love of ourselves leads us to neglect and despise others, — produces cruelty, covetousness, violence, deceit, and all kindred vices, — drives us to impatience, and arms us with the desire of revenge. Our Lord therefore enjoins that it be changed into the love of our neighbor.

15. But if ye bite and devour one another. From the nature of the subject, as well as from the language employed, we may conjecture that the Galatians had disputes among themselves; for they differed about doctrine. The apostle now demonstrates, from the result, how destructive such proceedings in the church must ultimately prove to be. False doctrine was probably a judgment from heaven upon their ambition, pride, and other offenses. This may be concluded from what frequently happens in the divine dispensations, as well as from an express declaration by the hand of Moses.

“Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 13:3.)

By biting and devouring 8989     Ταῖς λέξεσι δὲ ἐμφαντικῶς ἐχρήσατο· Οὐ γὰρ εἶπε δάκνετε, μόνον ὅπερ ἐστὶ φυμονμένου ἀλλὰ καὶ κατεσθίετε ὅπερ ἔστιν ἐμμένοντος τὣ πονηρίᾳ· ὁ μὲν γὰρ δάκνων ὀργὢς ἐπλήρωσε πάθος ὁ δὲ κατεσθίων θηριωδίας ἐσχάτης παρέσχεν ἀπόδειξιν·. “These words are used by him emphatically; for he did not merely say ‘Bite,’ which denotes an angry person, but likewise, ‘Devour,’ which denotes one who persists in wickedness. He who ‘bites’ has exhausted his angry passion, but he who ‘devours’ has given a demonstration of extreme cruelty.” — Chrysostom. he means, I think, slanders, accusations, reproaches, and every other kind of offensive language, as well as acts of injustice arising either from fraud or violence. And what is the end of them? To be consumed, while the tendency of brotherly love is to produce mutual protection and kindness. I wish we could always remember, when the devil tempts us to disputes, that the disagreement of members within the church can lead to nothing else than the ruin and consumption of the whole body. How distressing, how mad is it, that we, who are members of the same body, should be leagued together, of our own accord, for mutual destruction!

16. This I say then. Now follows the remedy. The ruin of the church is no light evil, and whatever threatens it must be opposed with the most determined resistance. But how is this to be accomplished? By not permitting the flesh to rule in us, and by yielding ourselves to the direction of the Spirit of God. The Galatians are indirectly told, that they are carnal, destitute of the Spirit of God, and that the life which they lead is unworthy of Christians; for whence did their violent conduct towards each other proceed, but from their being guided by the lust of the flesh? This, he tells them, is an evidence that they do not walk according to the Spirit.

Ye shall not fulfill. We ought to mark the word fulfill; by which he means, that, though the sons of God, so long as they groan under the burden of the flesh, are liable to commit sin, they are not its subjects or slaves, but make habitual opposition to its power. The spiritual man may be frequently assaulted by the lusts of the flesh, but fulfill them, — he does not permit them to reign over him. — On this subject, it will be proper to consult the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans

17. For the flesh lusteth. The spiritual life maintained without a struggle. We are here informed of the nature of the difficulty, which arises from our natural inclinations being opposed to the Spirit. The word flesh, as we had occasion to observe, in expounding the Epistle to the Romans, denotes the nature of man; for the limited application of it, which the sophists make to the lower senses, as they are called, is refuted by various passages; and the contrast between the two words puts an end to all doubt. The Spirit denotes the renewed nature, or the grace of regeneration; and what else does the flesh mean, but “the old man?” (Romans 6:6 Ephesians 4:22 Colossians 3:9.) Disobedience and rebellion against the Spirit of God pervade the whole nature of man. If we would obey the Spirit, we must labor, and fight, and apply our utmost energy; and we must begin with self-denial. The compliment paid by our Lord to the natural inclinations of men, amounts to this, — that there is no greater agreement between them and righteousness, than between fire and water. Where, then, shall we find a drop of goodness in man’s free will? unless we pronounce that to be good which is contrary to the Spirit of God;

“because the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”
(Romans 8:7.)

All the thoughts of the flesh are acts of enmity against God.

So that ye cannot do the things that ye would. This refers, unquestionably, to the regenerate. Carnal men have no battle with depraved lusts, no proper desire to attain to the righteousness of God. Paul is addressing believers. The things that ye would must mean, not our natural inclinations, but the holy affections which God bestows upon us by his grace. Paul therefore declares, that believers, so long as they are in this life, whatever may be the earnestness of their endeavors, do not obtain such a measure of success as to serve God in a perfect manner. The highest result does not correspond to their wishes and desires. I must again refer the reader, for a more extended view of my sentiments on this subject, to the Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans, (See Calvin on Romans 7:15.)

18. But if ye be led by the Spirit. In the way of the Lord believers are apt to stumble. But let them not be discouraged, because they are unable to satisfy the demands of the law. Let them listen to the consolatory declaration of the apostle, which is also found in other parts of his writings, (Romans 6:14,) ye are not under the law. Hence it follows, that the performance of their duties is not rejected on account of their present defects, but is accepted in the sight of God, as if it had been in every respect perfect and complete. Paul is still pursuing the controversy about freedom. The Spirit is elsewhere (Romans 8:15) denominated by him, “the Spirit of adoption;” and when the Spirit makes men free, he emancipates them from the yoke of the law. As if he had said, “Is it your desire instantly to terminate the controversies in which you are now engaged? Walk according to the Spirit. You will then be free from the dominion of the law, which will act only in the capacity of a kind adviser, and will no longer lay a restraint upon your consciences.” Besides, when the condemnation of the law is removed, freedom from ceremonies follows as a necessary consequence; for ceremonies mark the condition of a slave.


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