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CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE FALSE AND THE TRUE GLORYING.

"See with how large letters I write unto you with mine own hand. As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they compel you to be circumcised; only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For not even they who receive circumcision do themselves keep the law; but they desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. But far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world."—Gal. vi. 11-14.

The rendering of ver. 11 in the Authorised Version is clearly erroneous (see how large a letter). Wickliff, guided by the Latin Vulgate—with what maner lettris—escaped this error. It is a plural term the Apostle uses, which occasionally in Greek writers denotes an epistle (as in Acts xxviii. 21), but nowhere else in Paul. Moreover the noun is in the dative (instrumental) case, and cannot be made the object of the verb.

Paul draws attention at this point to his penmanship, to the size of the letters he is using and their autographic form. "See," he says, "I write this in large characters, and under my own hand." But does this remark apply to the whole Epistle, or to its concluding paragraph from this verse onwards? To the latter only, as we think. The word "look" is a kind of nota bene. It marks something new, designed by its form and appearance in the manuscript to arrest the eye.422 It was Paul's practice to write through an amanuensis, adding with his own hand a few final words of greeting or blessing, by way of authentication.146146   See 2 Thess. iii. 17, 18; 1 Cor. xvi. 21-23. In ver. 22 of the latter passage we can trace a similar autographic message, on a smaller scale. Comp. also Philemon 19. Here this usage is varied. The Apostle wishes to give these closing sentences the utmost possible emphasis and solemnity. He would print them on the very heart and soul of his readers. This intention explains the language of ver. 11; and it is borne out by the contents of the verses that follow. They are a postscript, or Epilogue, to the Epistle, rehearsing with incisive brevity the burden of all that it was in the Apostle's heart to say to these troubled and shaken Galatians.

The past tense of the verb (literally, I have written: ἔγραψα) is in accordance with Greek epistolary idiom. The writer associates himself with his readers. When the letter comes to them, Paul has written what they now peruse. On the assumption that the whole Epistle is autographic it is hard to see what object the large characters would serve, or why they should be referred to just at this point.

Ver. 11 is in fact a sensational heading. The last paragraph of the Epistle is penned in larger type and in the Apostle's characteristic hand, in order to fasten the attention of these impressionable Galatians upon his final deliverance. This device Paul employs but once. It is a kind of practice easily vulgarised and that loses its force by repetition, as in the case of "loud" printing and declamatory speech.

In this emphatic finalé the interest of the Epistle, so powerfully sustained and carried through so many stages, is raised to a yet higher pitch. Its pregnant423 sentences give us—first, another and still severer denunciation of "the troublers" (vv. 12, 13); secondly, a renewed protestation of the Apostle's devotion to the cross of Christ (vv. 14, 15); thirdly, a repetition in animated style of the practical doctrine of Christianity, and a blessing pronounced upon those who are faithful to it (vv. 15, 16). A pathetic reference to the writer's personal sufferings, followed by the customary benediction, brings the letter to a close. The first two topics of the Epilogue stand in immediate contrast with each other.

I. The glorying of the Apostle's adversaries. "They would have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh" (ver. 12).

This is the climax of his reproach against them. It gives us the key to their character. The boast measures the man. The aim of the Legalists was to get so many Gentiles circumcised, to win proselytes through Christianity to Judaism. Every Christian brother persuaded to submit himself to this rite was another trophy for them. His circumcision, apart from any moral or spiritual considerations involved in the matter, was of itself enough to fill these proselytizers with joy. They counted up their "cases;" they rivalled each other in the competition for Jewish favour on this ground. To "glory in your flesh—to be able to point to your bodily condition as the proof of their influence and their devotion to the Law—this," Paul says, "is the object for which they ply you with so many flatteries and sophistries."

Their aim was intrinsically low and unworthy. They "want to make a fair show (to present a good face) in the flesh." Flesh in this place (ver. 12) recalls the contrast between Flesh and Spirit expounded in the424 last chapter. Paul does not mean that the Judaizers wish to "make a good appearance in outward respects, in human opinion:" this would be little more than tautology. The expression stamps the Circumcisionists as "carnal" men. They are "not in the Spirit," but "in the flesh;" and "after the flesh" they walk. It is on worldly principles that they seek to commend themselves, and to unspiritual men. What the Apostle says of himself in Phil. iii. 3, 4, illustrates by contrast his estimate of the Judaizers of Galatia: "We are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God, and glory in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." He explains "having confidence in the flesh" by enumerating his own advantages and distinctions as a Jew, the circumstances which commended him in the eyes of his fellow-countrymen—"which were gain to me," he says, "but I counted them loss for Christ" (ver. 7). In that realm of fleshly motive and estimate which Paul had abandoned, his opponents still remained. They had exchanged Christian fidelity for worldly favour. And their religion took the colour of their moral disposition. To make a fair show, an imposing, plausible appearance in ceremonial and legal observance, was the mark they set themselves. And they sought to draw the Church with them in this direction, and to impress upon it their own ritualistic type of piety.

This was a worldly, and in their case a cowardly policy. "They constrain you to be circumcised, only that for the cross of Christ they may not suffer persecution" (ver. 12). This they were determined by all means to avoid. Christ had sent His servants forth "as sheep in the midst of wolves." The man that would serve Him, He said, must "follow Him, taking up his cross." But the Judaists thought they425 knew better than this. They had a plan by which they could be the friends of Jesus Christ, and yet keep on good terms with the world that crucified Him. They would make their faith in Jesus a means for winning over proselytes to Judaism. If they succeeded in this design, their apostasy might be condoned. The circumcised Gentiles would propitiate the anger of their Israelite kindred, and would incline them to look more favourably upon the new doctrine. These men, Paul says to the Galatians, are sacrificing you to their cowardice. They rob you of your liberties in Christ in order to make a shield for themselves against the enmity of their kinsmen. They pretend great zeal on your behalf; they are eager to introduce you into the blessings of the heirs of Abraham: the truth is, they are victims of a miserable fear of persecution.

The cross of Christ, as the Apostle has repeatedly declared (comp. Chapters XII and XXI), carried with it in Jewish eyes a flagrant reproach; and its acceptance placed a gulf between the Christian and the orthodox Jew. The depth of that gulf became increasingly apparent the more widely the gospel spread, and the more radically its principles came to be applied. To Paul it was now sorrowfully evident that the Jewish nation had rejected Christianity. They would not hear the Apostles of Jesus any more than the Master. For the preaching of the cross they had only loathing and contempt. Judaism recognised in the Church of the Crucified its most dangerous enemy, and was opening the fire of persecution against it all along the line. In this state of affairs, for the party of men to compromise and make private terms for themselves with the enemies of Christ was treachery. They were surrendering, as this Epistle shows, all that426 was most vital to Christianity. They gave up the honour of the gospel, the rights of faith, the salvation of the world, rather than face the persecution in store for those "who will live godly in Christ Jesus."

Not that they cared so much for the law in itself. Their glorying was insincere, as well as selfish: "For neither do the circumcised themselves keep the law.—These men who profess such enthusiasm for the law of Moses and insist so zealously on your submission to it, dishonour it by their own behaviour." The Apostle is denouncing the same party throughout. Some interpreters make the first clause of ver. 13 a parenthesis, supposing that "the circumcised" (participle present: those being circumcised) are Gentile perverts now being gained over to Judaism, while the foregoing and following sentences relate to the Jewish teachers. But the context does not intimate, nor indeed allow such a change of subject. It is "the circumcised" of ver. 13 a who in ver. 13 b wish to see the Galatians circumcised, "in order to boast over their flesh,"—the same who, in ver. 12, "desire to make a fair show in the flesh" and to escape Jewish persecution. Reading this in the light of the previous chapters, there seems to us no manner of doubt as to the persons thus designated. They are the Circumcisionists, Jewish Christians who sought to persuade the Pauline Gentile Churches to adopt circumcision and to receive their own legalistic perversion of the gospel of Christ. The present tense of the Greek participle, used as it is here with the definite article,147147   á½�ι πεÏ�ιτεμνόμενοι (Revised Text). On this idiom, see Winer's Grammar, p. 444; A. Buttmann's N. T. Grammar, p. 296. In ch. i. 23, and in ii. 2 (Ï„. δοκοῦσι), we have had instances of this usage. has the power of becoming a substantive, dropping its reference to time; for the act denoted427 passes into an abiding characteristic, so that the expression acquires the form of a title. "The circumcised" are the men of the circumcision, those known to the Galatians in this character.

The phrase is susceptible, however, of a wider application. When Paul writes thus, he is thinking of others besides the handful of troublers in Galatia. In Rom. ii. 17-29 he levels this identical charge of hypocritical law-breaking against the Jewish people at large: "Thou who gloriest in the law," he exclaims, "through thy transgression of the law dishonourest thou God?" This shocking inconsistency, notorious in contemporary Judaism, was to be observed in the conduct of the legalist zealots in Galatia. They broke themselves the very law which they tried to force on others. Their pretended jealousy for the ordinances of Moses was itself their condemnation. It was not the glory of the law they were concerned about, but their own.

The policy of the Judaizers was dishonourable both in spirit and in aim. They were false to Christ in whom they professed to believe; and to the law which they pretended to keep. They were facing both ways, studying the safest, not the truest course, anxious in truth to be friends at once with the world and Christ. Their conduct has found many imitators, in men who "make godliness a way of gain," whose religious course is dictated by considerations of worldly self-interest. A little persecution, or social pressure, is enough to "turn them out of the way." They cast off their Church obligations as they change their clothes, to suit the fashion. Business patronage, professional advancement, a tempting family alliance, the entrée into some select and envied circle—such are the things for which creeds are bartered, for which men put their428 souls and the souls of their children knowingly in peril. Will it pay?—this is the question which comes in with a decisive weight in their estimate of matters of religious profession and the things pertaining to God. But "what shall it profit?" is the question of Christ.

Nor are they less culpable who bring these motives into play, and put this kind of pressure on the weak and dependent. There are forms of social and pecuniary influence, bribes and threats quietly applied and well understood, which are hardly to be distinguished morally from persecution. Let wealthy and dominant Churches see to it that they be clear of these offences, that they make themselves the protectors, not the oppressors of spiritual liberty. The adherents that a Church secures by its worldly prestige do not in truth belong to the "kingdom that is not of this world." Such successes are no triumphs of the cross. Christ repudiates them. The glorying that attends proselytism of this kind is, like that of Paul's Judaistic adversaries, a "glorying in the flesh."

II. "But as for me," cries the Apostle, "far be it to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (ver. 14). Paul knows but one ground of exultation, one object of pride and confidence—his Saviour's cross.

Before he had received his gospel and seen the cross in the light of revelation, like other Jews he regarded it with horror. Its existence covered the cause of Jesus with ignominy. It marked Him out as the object of Divine abhorrence. To the Judaistic Christian the cross was still an embarrassment. He was secretly ashamed of a crucified Messiah, anxious by some means to excuse the scandal and make amends for it in the face of Jewish public opinion. But now this disgraceful cross in the Apostle's eyes is the most glorious thing429 in the universe. Its message is the good news of God to all mankind. It is the centre of faith and religion, of all that man knows of God or can receive from Him. Let it be removed, and the entire structure of revelation falls to pieces, like an arch without its keystone. The shame of the cross was turned into honour and majesty. Its foolishness and weakness proved to be the wisdom and the power of God. Out of the gloom in which Calvary was shrouded there now shone forth the clearest light of holiness and love.

Paul gloried in the cross of Christ because it manifested to him the character of God. The Divine love and righteousness, the entire range of those moral excellences which in their sovereign perfection belong to the holiness of God, were there displayed with a vividness and splendour hitherto inconceivable. "God so loved the world," and yet so honoured the law of right, that "He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all." How stupendous is this sacrifice, which baffles the mind and overwhelms the heart! Nowhere in the works of creation, nor in any other dispensation of justice or mercy touching human affairs, is there a spectacle that appeals to us with an effect to be compared with that of the Sufferer of Calvary.

Let me look, let me think again. Who is He that bleeds on that tree of shame? Why does the Holy One of God submit to these indignities? Why those cruel wounds, those heart-breaking cries that speak of a soul pierced by sorrows deeper than all that bodily anguish can inflict? Has the Almighty indeed forsaken Him? Has the Evil One sealed his triumph in the blood of the Son of God? Is it God's mercy to the world, or is it not rather Satan's hate and man's utter wickedness that stand here revealed? The issue430 shows with whom victory lay in the dread conflict fought out in the Redeemer's soul and flesh. "God was in Christ"—living, dying, rising. And what was He doing in Christ?—"reconciling the world unto Himself."

Now we know what the Maker of the worlds is like. "He that hath seen Me," said Jesus on Passion Eve, "hath seen the Father. From henceforth ye know Him, and have seen Him." What the world knew before of the Divine character and intentions towards man was but "poor, weak rudiments." Now the believer has come to Peniel; like Jacob, he has "seen the face of God." He has touched the centre of things. He has found the secret of love.

Moreover, the Apostle gloried in the cross because it was the salvation of men. His love for men made him boast of it, no less than his zeal for God. The gospel burning in his heart and on his lips, was "God's power unto salvation, both to Jew and Greek." He says this not by way of speculation or theological inference, but as the testimony of his constant experience. It was bringing men by thousands from darkness into light, raising them from the slough of hideous vices and guilty despair, taming the fiercest passions, breaking the strongest chains of evil, driving out of human hearts the demons of lust and hate. This message, wherever it went, was saving men, as nothing had done before, as nothing else has done since. What lover of his kind would not rejoice in this?

We are members of a weak and suffering race, groaning each in his own fashion under "the law of sin and death," crying out ever and anon with Paul, "O wretched man that I am!" If the misery of our bondage was acute its darkness extreme, how great431 is the joy with which we hail our Redeemer! It is the gladness of an immense relief, the joy of salvation. And our triumph is redoubled when we perceive that His grace brings us not deliverance for ourselves alone, but commissions us to impart it to our fellow-men. "Thanks be to God," cries the Apostle, "who always leadeth us in triumph, and maketh known the savour of His knowledge by us in every place" (2 Cor. ii. 14).

The essence of the gospel revealed to Paul, as we have observed more than once, lay in its conception of the office of the cross of Christ. Not the Incarnation—the basis of the manifestation of the Father in the Son; not the sinless life and superhuman teaching of Jesus, which have moulded the spiritual ideal of faith and supplied its contents; not the Resurrection and Ascension of the Redeemer, crowning the Divine edifice with the glory of life eternal; but the sacrifice of the cross is the focus of the Christian revelation. This gives to the gospel its saving virtue. Round this centre all other acts and offices of the Saviour revolve, and from it receive their healing grace. From the hour of the Fall of man the manifestations of the Divine grace to him ever looked forward to Calvary; and to Calvary the testimony of that grace has looked backward ever since. "By this sign" the Church has conquered; the innumerable benefits with which her teaching has enriched mankind must all be laid in tribute at the foot of the cross.

The atonement of Jesus Christ demands from us a faith like Paul's, a faith of exultation, a boundless enthusiasm of gratitude and confidence. If it is worth believing in at all, it is worth believing in heroically. Let us so boast of it, so exhibit in our lives its power, so spend ourselves in serving it, that we may justly432 claim from all men homage toward the Crucified. Let us lift up the cross of Christ till its glory shines world-wide, till, as He said, it "draws all men unto Him." If we triumph in the cross, we shall triumph by it. It will carry the Church to victory.

And the cross of Jesus Christ is the salvation of men, just because it is the revelation of God. It is "life eternal," said Jesus to the Father, "to know Thee." The gospel does not save by mere pathos, but by knowledge—by bringing about a right understanding between man and his Maker, a reconciliation. It brings God and man together in the light of truth. In this revelation we see Him, the Judge and the Father, the Lord of the conscience and the Lover of His children; and we see ourselves—what our sins mean, what they have done. God is face to face with the world. Holiness and sin meet in the shock of Calvary, and flash into light, each illuminated by contrast with the other. And the view of what God is in Christ—how He judges, how He pities us—once fairly seen, breaks the heart, kills the love of sin. "The glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ," sitting on that thorn-crowned brow, clothing that bleeding Form rent with the anguish of Mercy's conflict with Righteousness on our behalf—it is this which "shines in our hearts" as in Paul's, and cleanses the soul by its pity and its terror. But this is no dramatic scene, it is Divine, eternal fact. "We have beheld and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. We know and have believed the love that God hath to us" (1 John iv. 14, 16).

Such is the relation to God which the cross has established for the Apostle. In what position does it place him toward the world? To it, he tells us, he has bidden farewell. Paul and the world are dead to each433 other. The cross stands between them. In ch. ii. 20 he had said, "I am crucified with Christ;" in ch. v. 24, that his "flesh with its passions and lusts" had undergone this fate; and now he writes, "Through the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ the world is crucified to me, and I to the world."

Literally, a world—a whole world was crucified for Paul when his Lord died upon the cross. The world that slew Him put an end to itself, so far as he is concerned. He can never believe in it, never take pride in it, nor do homage to it any more. It is stripped of its glory, robbed of its power to charm or govern him. The death of shame that old "evil world" inflicted upon Jesus has, in Paul's eyes, reverted to itself; while for the Saviour it is changed into a life of heavenly glory and dominion. The Apostle's life is withdrawn from it, to be "hid with Christ in God."

This "crucifixion" is therefore mutual. The Apostle also "is crucified to the world." Saul the Pharisee was a reputable, religious man of the world, recognised by it, alive to it, taking his place in its affairs. But that "old man" has been "crucified with Christ." The present Paul is in the world's regard another person altogether—"the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things," no better than his crucified Master and worthy to share His punishment. He is dead—"crucified" to it. Faith in Jesus Christ placed a gulf, wide as that which parts the dead and living, between the Church of the Apostles and men around them. The cross parted two worlds wholly different. He who would go back into that other world, the world of godless self-pleasing and fleshly idolatry, must step over the cross of Christ to do it.

"To me," testifies Paul, "the world is crucified."434 And the Church of Christ has still to witness this confession. We read in it a prophecy. Evil must die. The world that crucified the Son of God, has written its own doom. With its Satanic Prince it "has been judged" (John xii. 31; xvi. 11). Morally, it is dead already. The sentence has passed the Judge's lips. The weakest child of God may safely defy it, and scorn its boasting. Its visible force is still immense; its subjects multitudinous; its empire to appearance hardly shaken. It towers like Goliath confronting "the armies of the living God." But the foundation of its strength is gone. Decay saps its frame. Despair creeps over its heart. The consciousness of its impotence and misery grows upon it.

Worldliness has lost its old serenity irrecoverably. The cross incessantly disturbs it, and haunts its very dreams. Antichristian thought at the present time is one wide fever of discontent. It is sinking into the vortex of pessimism. Its mockery is louder and more brilliant than ever; but there is something strangely convulsive in it all; it is the laughter of despair, the dance of death.

Christ the Son of God has come down from the cross, as they challenged Him. But coming down, He has fastened there in His place the world that taunted Him. Struggle as it may, it cannot unloose itself from its condemnation, from the fact that it has killed its Prince of Life. The cross of Jesus Christ must save—or destroy. The world must be reconciled to God, or it will perish. On the foundation laid of God in Zion men will either build or break themselves for ever. The world that hated Christ and the Father, the world that Paul cast from him as a dead thing, cannot endure. It "passeth away, and the lust thereof."


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