Peroration. Exhortation to Stand Fast in the Gospel Liberty,
Just Set Forth, and Not to Be Led by Judaizers
into Circumcision, or Law Justification: Yet though Free, to Serve One Another by Love: To Walk in the Spirit, Bearing the Fruit Thereof, Not in the Works of the Flesh.
1. The oldest manuscripts read, "in liberty
(so Alford, Moberley, Humphry,
and Ellicott. But as there is no
Greek for 'in,' as there is in translating in 1Co
16:13; Php 1:27; 4:1, I
prefer 'It is FOR freedom that') Christ
hath made us free (not in, or for, a state of bondage).
Stand fast, therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of
bondage" (namely, the law, Ga 4:24; Ac 15:10). On "again," see on Ga
2. Behold—that is, Mark what I say.
I Paul—Though you now think less of my
authority, I nevertheless give my name and personal authority as enough
by itself to refute all opposition of adversaries.
if ye be circumcised—not as Alford, "If you will go on being
circumcised." Rather, "If ye suffer yourselves to be circumcised,"
namely, under the notion of its being necessary to justification
5:4; Ac 15:1). Circumcision
here is not regarded simply by itself (for, viewed as a mere
national rite, it was practiced for conciliation's sake by Paul
16:3), but as the symbol of
Judaism and legalism in general. If this be necessary,
then the Gospel of grace is at an end. If the latter be the way of
justification, then Judaism is in no way so.
Christ … profit …
nothing—(Ga 2:21). For
righteousness of works and justification by faith cannot co-exist. "He
who is circumcised [for justification] is so as fearing the law, and he
who fears, disbelieves the power of grace, and he who disbelieves can
profit nothing by that grace which he disbelieves [Chrysostom].
3. For—Greek, "Yea, more";
I testify … to every man—as well
as "unto you" (Ga 5:2).
that is circumcised—that submits to be
circumcised. Such a one became a "proselyte of righteousness."
the whole law—impossible for man to
keep even in part, much less wholly (Jas 2:10); yet none can be justified by the law,
unless he keep it wholly (Ga 3:10).
4. Literally, "Ye have become void from
Christ," that is, your connection with Christ has become void (Ga 5:2). Ro 7:2, "Loosed from the law," where the
same Greek occurs as here.
whosoever of you are justified—"are
being justified," that is, are endeavoring to be justified.
by the law—Greek, "IN the law," as the element in which
justification is to take place.
fallen from grace—Ye no longer
"stand" in grace (Ro 5:2). Grace
and legal righteousness cannot co-exist (Ro 4:4, 5; 11:6). Christ, by circumcision (Lu 2:21), undertook to obey all the law, and
fulfil all righteousness for us: any, therefore, that now seeks to
fulfil the law for himself in any degree for justifying righteousness,
severs himself from the grace which flows from Christ's fulfilment of
it, and becomes "a debtor to do the whole law" (Ga 5:3). The decree of the Jerusalem council
had said nothing so strong as this; it had merely decided that Gentile
Christians were not bound to legal observances. But the Galatians,
while not pretending to be so bound, imagined there was an
efficacy in them to merit a higher degree of perfection (Ga 3:3). This accounts for Paul not referring
to the decree at all. He took much higher ground. See Paley's Horæ Paulinæ. The natural
mind loves outward fetters, and is apt to forge them for itself, to
stand in lieu of holiness of heart.
5. For—proof of the assertion, "fallen
from grace," by contrasting with the case of legalists, the
"hope" of Christians.
through the Spirit—Greek,
rather, "by the Spirit": in opposition to by the flesh (Ga 4:29), or fleshly ways of
justification, as circumcision and legal ordinances. "We" is
emphatical, and contrasted with "whosoever of you would be justified by
the law" (Ga
the hope of righteousness—"We wait for
the (realization of the) hope (which is the fruit) of the righteousness
(that is, justification which comes) by (literally, 'from—out
of') faith," Ro 5:1, 4, 5; 8:24, 25, "Hope … we with patience
wait for it." This is a farther step than being "justified"; not
only are we this, but "wait for the hope" which is connected with it,
and is its full consummation. "Righteousness," in the sense of
justification, is by the believer once for all already attained: but
the consummation of it in future perfection above is the object of
hope to be waited for: "the crown of righteousness laid
4:8): "the hope laid up for
you in heaven" (Col 1:5; 1Pe 1:3).
6. For—confirming the truth that it is
"by faith" (Ga 5:5).
in Jesus Christ—Greek, "in
Christ Jesus." In union with Christ (the Anointed Saviour), that is, Jesus of
nor uncircumcision—This is levelled
against those who, being not legalists, or Judaizers, think themselves
Christians on this ground alone.
faith which worketh by
love—Greek, "working by love." This corresponds to "a
new creature" (Ga 6:15), as
its definition. Thus in Ga 5:5, 6,
we have the three, "faith," "hope," and "love." The Greek
expresses, "Which effectually worketh"; which exhibits its
energy by love (so 1Th 2:13).
Love is not joined with faith in justifying, but is the
principle of the works which follow after justification by faith. Let
not legalists, upholding circumcision, think that the essence of the
law is set at naught by the doctrine of justification by faith only.
Nay, "all the law is fulfilled in one word—love," which is the
principle on which "faith worketh" (Ga 5:14). Let them, therefore, seek this
"faith," which will enable them truly to fulfil the law. Again, let not
those who pride themselves on uncircumcision think that, because the
law does not justify, they are free to walk after "the flesh" (Ga 5:13). Let them, then, seek that "love"
which is inseparable from true faith (Jas 2:8, 12-22). Love is utterly opposed to the
enmities which prevailed among the Galatians (Ga 5:15, 20). The Spirit (Ga 5:5) is a Spirit of "faith" and "love"
(compare Ro 14:17; 1Co 7:19).
7. Translate, "Ye were running well" in the
Gospel race (1Co 9:24-26; Php 3:13, 14).
who, &c.—none whom you ought to
have listened to [Bengel]: alluding to
the Judaizers (compare Ga 3:1).
hinder—The Greek means,
literally, "hinder by breaking up a road."
not obey the truth—not submit
yourselves to the true Gospel way of justification.
8. This persuasion—Greek,
"The persuasion," namely, to which you are yielding. There is a
play on words in the original, the Greek for persuasion
being akin to "obey" (Ga 5:7). This
persuasion which ye have obeyed.
cometh not of—that is "from." Does not
emanate from Him, but from an enemy.
that calleth you—(Ga 5:13; Ga 1:6; Php 3:14; 1Th 5:24). The calling is the rule of the whole
9. A little leaven—the false
teaching of the Judaizers. A small portion of legalism, if it be
mixed with the Gospel, corrupts its purity. To add legal ordinances and
works in the least degree to justification by faith, is to undermine
"the whole." So "leaven" is used of false doctrine (Mt 16:12: compare Mt 13:33). In 1Co 5:6 it means the corrupting influence of one
bad person; so Bengel understands
it here to refer to the person (Ga 5:7, 8, 10) who misled them. Ec 9:18, "One sinner destroyeth much good"
15:33). I prefer to refer it
to false doctrine, answering to "persuasion" (Ga 5:8).
10. Greek, "I (emphatical: 'I on my
part') have confidence in the Lord with regard to you (2Th 3:4), that ye will be none otherwise
minded" (than what by this Epistle I desire you to be, Php 3:15).
but he that troubleth you—(Ga 1:7; Ac 15:24; Jos 7:25; 1Ki 18:17, 18). Some one, probably, was
prominent among the seducers, though the denunciation applies to them
shall bear—as a heavy burden.
his—his due and inevitable
judgment from God. Paul distinguishes the case of the seduced, who were
misled through thoughtlessness, and who, now that they are set right by
him, he confidently hopes, in God's goodness, will return to the right
way, from that of the seducer who is doomed to judgment.
whosoever he be—whether great (Ga 1:8) or small.
11. Translate, "If I am still preaching (as I
did before conversion) circumcision, why am I still persecuted?" The
Judaizing troubler of the Galatians had said, "Paul himself preaches
circumcision," as is shown by his having circumcised Timothy (Ac 16:3; compare also Ac 20:6;
21:24). Paul replies by
anticipation of their objection, As regards myself, the fact that I am
still persecuted by the Jews shows plainly that I do not preach
circumcision; for it is just because I preach Christ crucified, and not
the Mosaic law, as the sole ground of justification, that they
persecute me. If for conciliation he lived as a Jew among the Jews, it
was in accordance with his principle enunciated (1Co 7:18, 20;
9:20). Circumcision, or
uncircumcision, are things indifferent in themselves: their lawfulness
or unlawfulness depends on the animus of him who uses them. The
Gentile Galatians' animus in circumcision could only be their
supposition that it influenced favorably their standing before God.
Paul's living as a Gentile among Gentiles, plainly showed that, if he
lived as a Jew among Jews, it was not that he thought it meritorious
before God, but as a matter indifferent, wherein he might lawfully
conform as a Jew by birth to those with whom he was, in order to
put no needless stumbling-block to the Gospel in the way of his
then—Presuming that I did so, "then,"
in that case, "the offense of (stumbling-block, 1Co 1:23 occasioned to the Jews by) the cross has
become done away." Thus the Jews' accusation against Stephen was not
that he preached Christ crucified, but that "he spake blasphemous words
against this holy place and the law." They would, in some
measure, have borne the former, if he had mixed with it justification
in part by circumcision and the law, and if he had, through the medium
of Christianity, brought converts to Judaism. But if justification in
any degree depended on legal ordinances, Christ's crucifixion in that
degree was unnecessary, and could profit nothing (Ga 5:2, 4). Worldly Wiseman, of the town of Carnal
Policy, turns Christian out of the narrow way of the Cross, to the
house of Legality. But the way to it was up a mountain, which, as
Christian advanced, threatened to fall on him and crush him, amidst
flashes of lightning from the mountain [Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress] (Heb 12:18-21).
12. they … which trouble
you—Translate, as the Greek is different from Ga 5:10, "they who are unsettling
were even cut off—even as they desire
your foreskin to be cut off and cast away by circumcision, so
would that they were even cut off from your communion, being
worthless as a castaway foreskin (Ga 1:7, 8; compare Php 3:2). The fathers, Jerome, Ambrose,
Augustine, and Chrysostom, explain it, "Would that they would even
cut themselves off," that is, cut off not merely the foreskin, but the
whole member: if circumcision be not enough for them, then let
them have excision also; an outburst hardly suitable to the
gravity of an apostle. But Ga 5:9, 10
plainly point to excommunication as the judgment threatened
against the troublers: and danger of the bad "leaven" spreading, as the
reason for it.
13. The "ye" is emphatical, from its position
in the Greek, "Ye brethren"; as opposed to those legalists "who
unto liberty—The Greek
expresses, "on a footing of liberty." The state or
condition in which ye have been called to salvation, is one of
liberty. Gospel liberty consists in three things, freedom from the
Mosaic yoke, from sin, and from slavish fear.
only, &c.—Translate, "Only turn
not your liberty into an occasion for the flesh." Do not give
the flesh the handle or pretext (Ro 7:8, "occasion") for its indulgence which it
eagerly seeks for; do not let it make Christian "liberty" its pretext
for indulgence (Ga 5:16, 17; 1Pe 2:16; 2Pe 2:19; Jude
but by love serve one
another—Greek, "Be servants (be in bondage) to one
another." If ye must be servants, then be servants to one
another in love. While free as to legalism, be bound by Love
(the article in the Greek personifies love in the abstract) to
serve one another (1Co 9:19).
Here he hints at their unloving strifes springing out of lust of power.
"For the lust of power is the mother of heresies" [Chrysostom].
14. all the law—Greek, "the whole
law," namely, the Mosaic law. Love to God is presupposed as the
root from which love to our neighbor springs; and it is in this
tense the latter precept (so "word" means here) is said to be
the fulfilling of "all the law" (Le 19:18). Love is "the law of Christ" (Ga 6:2; Mt 7:12; 22:39, 40; Ro 13:9, 10).
is fulfilled—Not as received text "is
being fulfilled," but as the oldest manuscripts read, "has been
fulfilled"; and so "receives its full perfection," as rudimentary
teachings are fulfilled by the more perfect doctrine. The law only
united Israelites together: the Gospel unites all men, and that in
relation to God [Grotius].
15. bite—backbite the
devour—the substance by injuring,
extortion, &c. (Hab 1:13; Mt 23:14; 2Co 11:20).
consumed, &c.—Strength of soul,
health of body, character, and resources, are all consumed by broils
16. This I say then—Repeating in other
words, and explaining the sentiment in Ga 5:13, What I mean is this."
Walk in the Spirit—Greek, "By
(the rule of) the (Holy) Spirit." Compare Ga 5:16-18, 22, 25; Ga 6:1-8, with Ro 7:22;
8:11. The best way to keep
tares out of a bushel is to fill it with wheat.
the flesh—the natural man, out of
which flow the evils specified (Ga 5:19-21). The spirit and the flesh mutually
exclude one another. It is promised, not that we should have no evil
lusts, but that we should "not fulfil" them. If the spirit that
is in us can be at ease under sin, it is not a spirit that comes from
the Holy Spirit. The gentle dove trembles at the sight even of a hawk's
17. For—the reason why walking by the
Spirit will exclude fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, namely, their
the Spirit—not "lusteth," but "tendeth
(or some such word is to be supplied) against the flesh."
so that ye cannot do the things that ye
would—The Spirit strives against the flesh and its evil
influence; the flesh against the Spirit and His good influence, so
that neither the one nor the other can be fully carried out into
action. "But" (Ga 5:18)
where "the Spirit" prevails, the issue of the struggle no longer
continues doubtful (Ro 7:15-20) [Bengel]. The Greek is, "that ye may not do
the things that ye would." "The flesh and Spirit are contrary one to
the other," so that you must distinguish what proceeds from the
Spirit, and what from the flesh; and you must not fulfil what you
desire according to the carnal self, but what the Spirit within you
desires [Neander]. But the antithesis of
Ga 5:18 ("But," &c.), where the
conflict is decided, shows, I think, that here Ga 5:17 contemplates the inability both for
fully accomplishing the good we "would," owing to the opposition of the
flesh, and for doing the evil our flesh would desire,
owing to the opposition of the Spirit in the awakened man (such
as the Galatians are assumed to be), until we yield ourselves wholly by
the Spirit to "walk by the Spirit" (Ga 5:16, 18).
18. "If ye are led (give yourselves up
to be led) by (Greek) the Spirit, ye are not under the
law." For ye are not working the works of the flesh (Ga 5:16,
19-21) which bring one "under
the law" (Ro 8:2, 14). The "Spirit makes free from the law of
sin and death" (Ga 5:23). The
law is made for a fleshly man, and for the works of the flesh (1Ti 1:9), "not for a righteous man" (Ro 6:14,
19-23. Confirming Ga 5:18, by showing the contrariety between the
works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit.
manifest—The hidden fleshly
principle betrays itself palpably by its works, so that these are not
hard to discover, and leave no doubt that they come not from the
which are these—Greek, "such
as," for instance.
Adultery—omitted in the oldest
petulance, capricious insolence; it may display itself in
"lasciviousness," but not necessarily or constantly so (Mr 7:21, 22, where it is not associated with
fleshly lusts) [Trench]. "Works" (in the
plural) are attributed to the "flesh," because they are divided, and
often at variance with one another, and even when taken each one by
itself, betray their fleshly origin. But the "fruit of the
5:23) is singular, because,
however manifold the results, they form one harmonious whole. The
results of the flesh are not dignified by the name "fruit"; they are
but works (Eph 5:9, 11). He enumerates those fleshly "works"
(committed against our neighbor, against God, and against ourselves) to
which the Galatians were most prone (the Celts have always been prone
to disputations and internal strifes): and those manifestations of the
fruit of the Spirit most needed by them (Ga 5:13, 15). This passage shows that "the
flesh" does not mean merely sensuality, as opposed to
spirituality: for "divisions" in the catalogue here do not flow
from sensuality. The identification of "the natural (Greek,
'animal-souled') man," with the "carnal" or fleshly man
2:14), shows that "the flesh"
expresses human nature as estranged from God. Trench observes, as a proof of our fallen state, how
much richer is every vocabulary in words for sins, than in those for
graces. Paul enumerates seventeen "works of the flesh," only
nine manifestations of "the fruit of the Spirit" (compare Eph 4:31).
20. witchcraft—sorcery; prevalent in
19:19; compare Re 21).
singular in the oldest manuscripts.
emulations—in the oldest manuscripts,
singular—"emulation," or rather, "jealousy"; for the sake of
one's own advantage. "Envyings" (Ga 5:21) are even without advantage to the
person himself [Bengel].
"passionate outbreaks" [Alford].
strife—rather as Greek,
"factions," "cabals"; derived from a Greek root, meaning "a
worker for hire": hence, unworthy means for compassing ends,
seditions—"dissensions," as to secular
heresies—as to sacred things (see on
1Co 11:19). Self-constituted parties;
from a Greek root, to choose. A schism is a more
recent split in a congregation from a difference of opinion.
Heresy is a schism become inveterate [Augustine, Con. Crescon. Don., 2,7].
21. tell … before—namely, before
I … told you in time
past—when I was with you.
you—who, though maintaining
justification by the law, are careless about keeping the law (Ro 2:21-23).
not inherit … kingdom of
God—(1Co 6:9, 10; Eph 5:5).
22. love—the leader of the band of
graces (1Co 13:1-13).
conciliatory to others; whereas "goodness," though ready to do good,
has not such suavity of manner [Jerome]. Alford
faith—"faithfulness"; opposed to
"heresies" [Bengel]. Alford refers to 1Co 13:7, "Believeth all things": faith in
the widest sense, toward God and man. "Trustfulness" [Conybeare and Howson].
23. temperance—The Greek root
implies self-restraint as to one's desires and lusts.
against such—not persons, but
things, as in Ga 5:21.
no law—confirming Ga 5:18, "Not under the law" (1Ti 1:9, 10). The law itself commands love
5:14); so far is it from
being "against such."
24. The oldest manuscripts read, "They that
are of Christ Jesus"; they that belong to Christ Jesus; being "led by
(His) Spirit" (Ga 5:18).
have crucified the flesh—They nailed
it to the cross once for all when they became Christ's, on believing
and being baptized (Ro 6:3, 4):
they keep it now in a state of crucifixion (Ro 6:6): so that the Spirit can produce in
them, comparatively uninterrupted by it, "the fruit of the Spirit"
5:22). "Man, by faith, is
dead to the former standing point of a sinful life, and rises to a new
5:25) of communion with
3:3). The act by which
they have crucified the flesh with its lust, is already
accomplished ideally in principle. But the practice, or outward
conformation of the life, must harmonize with the tendency given to the
inward life" (Ga 5:25)
[Neander]. We are to be executioners,
dealing cruelly with the body of sin, which has caused the acting of
all cruelties on Christ's body.
with the affections—Translate, "with
its passions." Thus they are dead to the law's condemning power, which
is only for the fleshly, and their lusts (Ga 5:23).
25. in … in—rather, as
Greek, "If we live (see on Ga 5:24) BY the Spirit, let us also walk (Ga 5:16; 6:16) BY
the Spirit." Let our life in practice correspond to the ideal inner
principle of our spiritual life, namely, our standing by faith as dead
to, and severed from, sin, and the condemnation of the law. "Life by
(or 'in') the Spirit" is not an occasional influence of the Spirit, but
an abiding state, wherein we are continually alive, though sometimes
sleeping and inactive.
26. Greek, "Let us not BECOME." While not asserting that the Galatians are
"vainglorious" now, he says they are liable to become
provoking one another—an effect of
"vaingloriousness" on the stronger: as "envying" is its effect
on the weaker. A danger common both to the orthodox and