SUMMARY.--To Fall Under the Law is to Lose Christ. Circumcision Avails Nothing, but Faith Working by Love. Love the Fulfilling of the Law. The Warfare Between the Flesh and the Spirit. The Works of the Flesh. The Fruits of the Spirit.
1. Stand fast therefore. Compare Eph. 6:14; 2 Thess. 2:15. This verse is connected in meaning with the last chapter, where it is shown that the gospel is freedom, but the Mosaic law is the covenant of bondage. Hence Paul bids them to cling to their freedom in Christ, and not to be brought again under the yoke by being drawn under the Jewish law. Again. Once they had been under bondage to a heathen yoke (4:8); to accept the Jewish yoke would be a second bondage.
2-6. Behold, I Paul. He makes emphatic what he is about to say, by repeating his name, so familiar to his own converts. If ye be circumcised. Their circumcision, under the circumstances, would be the sign of their submission to the law of Moses. They, Gentile Christians, could not thus become Jews and remain Christians. It would be proof of trust in Moses rather than Christ, in the law rather than in the gospel. 3. I testify again. He shows them that if one becomes circumcised to keep the law of Moses, that he is placed under obligation to keep the whole law, since other commandments are equally binding. 4. Christ is become of no effect unto you. If you be circumcised in order to keep the Mosaic law (verse 2). Ye are fallen from grace. By resorting to the law for salvation. 5. For we. We Christians, who trust in the gospel. Through the Spirit. Not through carnal ordinances, but strengthened by the Spirit we wait For the fulfillment of the hope which righteousness by faith instead of the law insures to us. 6. For in Christ Jesus, etc. It made no difference in the sight of God whether a Christian was a circumcised Jew or an uncircumcised Gentile. Both stood on the same footing. It did make a great difference, though, if the Gentile Christian became circumcised in order to keep the law (verse 2). It is true Paul circumcised Timothy, but it was not to keep the law. See notes on 2:3. But faith availeth--the faith in Christ; the faith which uses love as its medium and method of working. There is first faith in Christ; then the love of Christ.
7-10. Ye did run well. A figure from the Grecian games. Compare 2:2; 1 Cor. 9:24; Heb. 12:1. Who did hinder? So as to stop your running. They had ceased to run by turning from the truth. 8. This persuasion. To obey not the truth. It was not of him that called them, God, that they should turn from it. 9. A little leaven, etc. A proverb which condenses a sermon. Probably only one or two Judaizers had done all this evil work in Galatia. A very little thing in the beginning will sometimes work a great mischief. 10. I have confidence. That they will be none otherwise minded than himself. He that troubleth you. All these false teachers shall be brought to condemnation, whoever they may be.
11, 12. And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision. Perhaps the Judaizers, in order to promote their doctrine, urged that Paul also taught circumcision in some places. They might even quote the case of Timothy (see notes on Acts 16:3). If this charge was true, why did the Jews everywhere persecute him? Then is the offense of the cross ceased. The great offense of the cross to the Jews was that Christ is the atonement for sin, and that the whole Jewish system of ordinances perished at the cross. Of course, if Paul taught obedience to the law, he rejected the doctrine of the cross. 12. I would they were even cut off. These men are seeking to make the mark of bondage by cutting your flesh. I would that they would cut themselves off (see Revision). I take it that he means "Cut themselves off from the church so as to have nothing more to do with it."
13-15. Ye have been called to liberty. The liberty of children of God. Use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh. Do not think that because you are free, you are free to do evil. Let not liberty becomes license. But by love serve, etc. But love each other so well that there will be mutual service and helpfulness. 14. For all the law is fulfilled. The essence of the law is comprehended in a single command--that of loving your neighbor. See notes on Rom. 13:8; also compare Matt. 22:39, and Lev. 19:18. 15. But if ye bite and devour. Bite in sudden anger, and devour in continued hatred. Take heed. Mutual anger and hate must result in mutual destruction.
16-18. Walk in the Spirit. Under its guidance, as it directs. We have its directions in the words of Christ and the apostles. He who is guided by the Spirit will not obey the lusts of the flesh. 17. The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, etc. The desires of the flesh and the Spirit are in conflict. They war within us. One would lead in one direction, and the other in another. So that ye cannot. The Greek is not so strong as this. It implies that the two wills within us hinder us from doing as we would by their conflict. 18. But if ye be led by the Spirit. If the desire of the Spirit prevails. Those "led of the Spirit are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14), and are free from the law. The law with its carnal ordinances in Paul's view was adapted to a fleshly condition.
19-21. Now the works of the flesh . . . are these. The tree is known by its fruits. We show our fruits whether we are of the flesh or Spirit. The works of the flesh are first given. Paul names (1) Three sins of sensuality; (2) two spiritual sins of false religion; (3) sins against our fellow men, of which nine are specified; (4) sins of intemperance, of which two are named. The sins of sensuality were sanctioned by the heathen religion in the worship of Venus, and sanctioned by the purest heathen moralists. Christianity had to breast the current of the whole world. It differs from heathen morality as day from night. 20. Witchcraft. Sorcery or magic, whether a superstition or deception, was prevalent in all the ancient world. See notes on Acts 19:19. 21. Drunkenness. A common sin of all ages. Revellings. Any kind of riotous or unseemly conduct; carousals. As I have also told you in time past. As before, when in Galatia, so now he tells them again that none who do these things can expect to be saved.
22, 23. But the fruits of the Spirit. The fruits named are not our fruits, but of the Spirit in us. If we bear these fruits we show that we have the Spirit. There are four groups: (1) Love, the Christian grace which works out the whole law. (2) Joy and peace, which are the normal state of the Christian. (3) The graces which relate to others, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, fidelity (faith), meekness. (4) The last fruit looks to oneself, temperance, or self-control. It implies not only abstinence from injurious drinks and food, but control of the temper, the tongue, the desires, the passion for money or power. 23. Against such there is no law. Those who bear these fruits find no law interfering with them.
24-26. They that are Christ's. They cannot walk after the flesh because they have crucified their lusts. Have died with Christ, been buried, and risen, not to live their own lives, but Christ's. See Rom. 6:2-6. Baptism is supposed to mark a complete separation between the old life of sin and the Christian life. 25. Walk in the Spirit. If we are born again, and have a spiritual life, let us show it by walking in obedience to the Spirit. 26. Let us not be desirous of vain glory. This was probably a well-known fault of the Galatians.