Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
Brethren, if a man be overtaken - Margin, "Although." It is a case which the apostle supposes might happen. Christians were not perfect; and it was possible that they who were true Christians might be surprised by temptation, and fall into sin. The word rendered "be overtaken" (προλημφθῃ prolēmphthē from προλαμβάνω prolambanō), means properly "to take before another, to anticipate" 1 Corinthians 11:21; then "to be before taken or caught"; and may here mean either that one had been formerly guilty of sin or had been recently hurried on by his passions or by temptations to commit a fault. It is probable that the latter here is the true sense, and that it means, if a man is found to be overtaken by any sin; if his passions, or if temptation get the better of him. Tyndale renders it: "If any man be fallen by chance into any fault." It refers to cases of surprise, or of sudden temptation. Christians do not commit sin deliberately, and as a part of the plan of life; but they may be surprised by sudden temptation, or urged on by impetuous or headstrong passion, as David and Peter were. Paul does not speak of the possibility of restoring one who deliberately forms the plan of sinning; he does not suppose that such a man could be a Christian, and that it would be proper to speak of restoring such a man.
Ye which are spiritual - Who are under the influences of the Holy Spirit; see the note at Galatians 5:22-23. The apostle, in this verse, refers evidently to those who have fallen into some sensual indulgence Galatians 5:19-21, and says that they who have escaped these temptations, and who are under the influences of the Spirit, should recover such persons. It is a very important qualification for those who would recover others from sin, that they should not be guilty of the same sin themselves. Reformers should be holy persons; people who exercise discipline in the church should be "spiritual" men - people in whom implicit confidence may be properly reposed.
Restore such an one - On the meaning of the word used here, see the note at 2 Corinthians 13:11. Here it means, not to restore him to the church after he has been excluded, but set him right, bring him back, recover him from his errors and his faults. The apostle does not say in what manner this is to be done; but it is usually to be done doubtless by affectionate admonition, by faithful instruction, and by prayer. Discipline or punishment should not be resorted to until the other methods are tried in vain; Matthew 18:15-17.
In the spirit of meekness - With a kind, forbearing, and forgiving spirit; see the note at Matthew 5:5. Not with anger; not with a lordly and overbearing mind; not with a love of finding others in fault, and with a desire for inflicting the discipline of the church; not with a harsh and unforgiving temper, but with love, and gentleness, and humility, and patience, and with a readiness to forgive when wrong has been done. This is an essential qualification for restoring and recovering an offending brother. No one should attempt to rebuke or admonish another who cannot do it in the spirit of meekness; no man should engage in any way in the work of reform who has not such a temper of mind.
Considering thyself ... - Remembering how liable you are yourself to err; and how much kindness and indulgence should therefore be shown to others. You are to act as if you felt it possible that you might also be overtaken with a fault; and you should act as you would wish that others should do toward you. Pliny (Epis. viii. 22) has expressed a similar sentiment in the following beautiful language. "Atque ego optimum et emendatissimum existimo, qui caeteris ita ignoscit, tanquam ipse quotidie peccet; ita peccatis abstinet, tanquam nemini ignoscat. Prolade hoc domi, hoc foris, hoc in omni vitae genere teneamus, ut nobis implacabiles simus, exorabiles istis etiam, qui dare veniam nisi sibi nesciunt." The doctrine taught by Paul is, that such is human infirmity, and such the strength of human depravity, that no one knows into what sins he may himself fall. He may be tempted to commit; the same sins which he endeavors to amend in others; he may be left to commit even worse sins. If this is the case, we should be tender while we are firm; forgiving while we set our faces against evil; prayerful while we rebuke; and compassionate when we are compelled to inflict on others the discipline of the church. Everyone who has any proper feelings, when he attempts to recover an erring brother should pray for him and for himself also; and will regard his duty as only half done, and that very imperfectly, if he does not "consider also that he himself may be tempted."
Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Bear ye one another's burdens - See the note at Romans 15:1. Bear with each other; help each other in the divine life. The sense is, that every man has special temptations and easily besetting sins, which constitute a heavy burden. We should aid each other in regard to these, and help one another to overcome them.
And so fulfil the law of Christ - The special law of Christ, requiring us to love one another; see the note at John 13:34. This was the distinguishing law of the Redeemer; and they could in no way better fulfil it than by aiding each other in the divine life. The law of Christ would not allow us to reproach the offender, or to taunt him, or to rejoice in his fall. We should help him to take up his load of infirmities, and sustain him by our counsels, our exhortations, and our prayers. Christians, conscious of their infirmities, have a right to the sympathy and the prayers of their brethren. They should not be cast off to a cold and heartless world; a world rejoicing over their fall, and ready to brand them as hypocrites. They should be pressed to the warm bosom of brotherly kindness; and prayer should be made to ascend without ceasing around an erring and a fallen brother. Is this the case in regard to all who bear the Christian name?
For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
For if a man think himself to be something ... - see Galatians 5:26. This is designed, evidently, to be another reason why we should be kind and tender to those who have erred. It is, that even those who are most confident may fall. They who feel secure, and think it impossible that they should sin, are not safe. They may be wholly deceived, and may be nothing, when they have the highest estimate of themselves. They may themselves fall into sin, and have need of all the sympathy and kindness of their brethren.
When he is nothing - When he has no strength, and no moral worth. When he is not such as he apprehends, but is lifted up with vain self-conceit.
He deceiveth himself - He understands not his own character. "The worst part of the fraud falls on his own head" - Doddridge. He does not accomplish what he expected to do; and instead of acquiring reputation from others, as he expected, he renders himself contemptible in their sight.
But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.
But let every man prove - That is, try or examine in a proper manner. Let him form a proper estimate of what is due to himself, according to his real character. Let him compare himself with the word of God, and the infallible rule which he has given, and by which we are to be judged in the last great day; compare the Romans 12:3 note; 1 Corinthians 11:28 note; 2 Corinthians 13:5 note.
His own work - What he does. Let him form a fair and impartial estimate of his own character.
And then shall he have rejoicing - That is, he will be appropriately rewarded, and will meet with no disappointment. The man who forms an improper estimate of his own character will be sure to be disappointed. The man who examines himself, and who forms no extravagant expectation in regard to what is due to himself, will be appropriately rewarded, and will be made happy. If, by the careful examination of himself, he finds his life to be virtuous, and his course of conduct pure; if he has done no wrong to others, and if he finds evidence that he is a child of God, then he will have cause of rejoicing.
In himself alone - Compare Proverbs 14:14; "A good man shall be satisfied from himself." The sentiment is, that he will find in himself a source of pure joy. He will not be dependent on the applause of others for happiness. In an approving conscience; in the evidence of the favor of God; in an honest effort to lead a pure and holy life, he will have happiness. The source of his joys will be within; and he will not be dependent, as the man of ambition, and the man who thinks of himself more highly than he ought, will, on the favors of a capricious multitude, and on the breath of popular applause.
And not in another - He will not be dependent on others for happiness. Here is the true secret of happiness. It consists:
(1) In not forming an improper estimate of ourselves; in knowing just what we are, and what is due to us; in not thinking ourselves to be something, when we are nothing.
(2) in leading such a life that it may be examined to the core, that we may know exactly what we are without being distressed or pained. That is, in having a good conscience, and in the honest and faithful discharge of our duty to God and man.
(3) in not being dependent on the fickle applause of the world for our comfort. The man who has no internal resources, and who has no approving conscience; who is happy only when others smile, and miserable when they frown, is a man who can have no security for enjoyment. The man who has a good conscience, and who enjoys the favor of God, and the hope of heaven, carries with him the source of perpetual joy. He cannot be deprived of it. His purse may be taken, and his house robbed, but the highwayman cannot rob him of his comforts. He carries with him an unfailing source of happiness when abroad, and the same source of happiness abides with him at home; he bears it into society, and it remains with him in solitude; it is his companion when in health, and when surrounded by his friends, and it is no less his companion when his friends leave him, and when he lies upon a bed of death.
For every man shall bear his own burden.
For every man shall bear his own burden - This seems to be a kind of proverbial saying; and it means here, every man shall have his proper reward. If he is a virtuous man, he will be happy; if a vicious man, he will be miserable. If a virtuous man, he will have the source of happiness in himself; if a sinner, he must bear the proper penalty of his sin. In the great day every man shall be properly rewarded. Knowing this, we should be little anxious about the sentiments of others, and should seek to maintain a good conscience toward God and man. The design of this passage is, to prevent people from forming an improper estimate of themselves, and of the opinions of others. Let a man feel that he is soon to stand at the judgment-seat, and it will do much to keep him from an improper estimate of his own importance; let him feel that he must give an account to God, and that his great interests are to be determined by the estimate which God will affix to his character, and it will teach him that the opinion of the world is of little value. This will restrain his vanity and ambition. This will show him that the great business of life is to secure the favor of God, and to be prepared to give up his account; and there is no way so effectual of checking ambition, and subduing vanity and the love of applause, as to feel that we are soon to stand at the awesome bar of God.
Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.
Let him that is taught in the word - In the word of God; that is, the gospel.
Communicate unto him - Let him share with him who teaches; let there be a common participation of all good things.
In all good things - In everything that is needful for their comfortable subsistence. On the duty here enjoined see the notes at 1 Corinthians 9:11-13.
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
Be not deceived - That is, in regard to your character, and your hopes for eternity. This is a formula of introduction to some admonition that is especially weighty and important. It implies that there was danger that they would be deceived in reference to their character. The sources of the danger were the corruption of their own hearts, the difficulty of knowing their true character, the instructions of false teachers, etc.; see the note at 1 Corinthians 6:9.
God is not mocked - He cannot be imposed on, or mocked. He knows what our real character is, and he will judge us accordingly. The word rendered "mocked" (μυκτηρίζω muktērizō), means, properly, to turn up the nose in scorn; hence, to mock, or deride, or insult. The sense is, that God could not be imposed on, or could not be insulted with impunity, or successfully. To mock is, properly:
(1) To imitate, to mimic: to imitate in contempt or derision.
(2) to deride, to laugh at, to ridicule.
(3) to defeat, or to illude, or to disappoint.
(4) to fool, to tantalize - Webster.
Here it cannot mean to imitate, or to mimic, but it refers to the principles of the divine administration, and must mean that they could not be treated with contempt, or successfully evaded. They could not hope to illude or impose on God. His principles of government were settled, and they could not impose on him. To what the reference is here, is not perfectly plain. In the connection in which it stands, it seems to refer to the support of the ministers of the gospel; and Paul introduces the general principle, that as a man sows he will reap, to show them what will be the effect of a liberal and proper use of their property. If they made a proper use of it; if they employed it for benevolent purposes; if they appropriated what they should to the support of religion, they would reap accordingly. God could not be imposed on in regard to this. They could not make him think that they had true religion when they were sowing to the flesh, and when they were spending their money in purchasing pleasure, and in luxury and vanity.
No zeal, however ardent; no prayers, however fervent or long, no professions, however loud, would impose on God. And to make such prayers, and to manifest such zeal and such strong professions, while the heart was with the world, and they were spending their money for every thing else but religion, was mocking God. Alas, how much mockery of God like this still prevails! How much, when people seem disposed to make God believe that they are exceedingly zealous and devoted, while their heart is truly with the world! How many long prayers are offered; how much zeal is shown; how many warm professions are made, as if to make God and man believe that the heart was truly engaged in the cause of religion, while little or nothing is given in the cause of benevolence; while the ministers of religion are suffered to starve; and while the "loud professor" rolls in wealth, and is distinguished for luxury of living, for gaiety of apparel, for splendor of equipage, and for extravagance in parties of pleasure! Such professors attempt to mock God. They are really sowing to the flesh; and of the flesh they must reap corruption.
For whatsoever a man soweth ... - See the note at 2 Corinthians 9:6. This figure is taken from agriculture. A man who sows wheat, shall reap wheat; he who sows barley, shall reap barley; he who sows cockle, shall reap cockle. Every kind of grain will produce grain like itself. So it is in regard to our works. He who is liberal, shall be dealt with liberally; he who is righteous, shall be rewarded; he who is a sinner, shall reap according to his deeds.
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
For he that soweth to his flesh - That makes provision for the indulgence of fleshly appetites and passions; see the notes at Galatians 5:19-21. He who makes use of his property to give indulgence to licentiousness, intemperance, and vanity.
Shall of the flesh - From the flesh, or as that which indulgence in fleshly appetites properly produces. Punishment, under the divine government, is commonly in the line of offences. The punishment of licentiousness and intemperance in this life is commonly loathsome and offensive disease; and when long indulged, the sensualist becomes haggard, and bloated, and corrupted, and sinks into the grave. Such, also, is often the punishment of luxurious living, of a pampered appetite, of gluttony, as well as of intemperate drinking. But if the punishment does not follow in this life, it will be sure to overtake the sensualist in the world to come. There he shall reap ruin, final and everlasting.
(1) By disease.
(2) in the grave - the home to which the sensualist rapidly travels.
(3) in the world of woe.
There all shall be corrupt. His virtue - even the semblance of virtue, shall all be gone. His understanding, will, fancy - his whole soul shall be debased and corrupt. No virtue will linger and live on the plains of ruin, but all shall be depravity and woe. Everything in hell is debased and corrupt; and the whole harvest of sensuality in this world and the world to come, is degradation and defilement.
But he that soweth to the Spirit - He who follows the leadings and cultivates the affections which the Holy Spirit would produce; see the notes at Galatians 5:22-23.
Shall of the Spirit - As the result of following the leadings of the Spirit.
Reap life everlasting - See the note at Romans 2:7.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
And let us not be weary in welldoing - See the note at 1 Corinthians 15:58. The reference here is particularly to the support of the ministers of religion Galatians 6:6, but the apostle makes the exhortation general. Christians sometimes become weary. There is so much opposition to the best plans for doing good; there is so much to be done; there are so many calls on their time and their charities; and there is often so much ingratitude among those whom they endeavor to benefit, that they become disheartened. Such Paul addresses, and exhorts them not to give over, but to persevere.
For in due season - At the day of judgment. Then we shall receive the full reward of all our self-denials and charities.
We shall reap, if we faint not - If we do not give over, exhausted and disheartened. It is implied here, that unless a man perseveres in doing good to the end of life, he can hope for no reward. He who becomes disheartened, and who gives over his efforts; he that is appalled by obstacles, and that faints on account of the embarrassments thrown in his way; he that pines for ease, and withdraws from the field of benevolence, shows that he has no true attachment to the cause, and that his heart has never been truly in the work of religion. He who becomes a true Christian, becomes such for eternity. He has enlisted, never to withdraw. He becomes pledged to do good and to serve God always. No obstacles are to deter, no embarrassments are to drive him from the field. With the vigor of his youth, and the wisdom and influence of his riper years; with his remaining powers when enfeebled by age; with the last pulsation of life here, and with his immortal energies in a higher world, he is to do good. For that he is to live. In that he is to die; and when he awakes in the resurrection with renovated powers, he is to awake to an everlasting service of doing good, as far as he may have opportunity, in the kingdom of God.
As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men - This is the true rule about doing good. "The opportunity to do good," said Cotton Mather, "imposes the obligation to do it." The simple rule is, that we are favored with the opportunity, and that we have the power. It is not that we are to do it when it is convenient; or when it will advance the interest of a party; or when it may contribute to our fame; the rule is, that we are to do it when we have the opportunity. No matter how often that occurs; no matter how many objects of benevolence are presented - the more the better; no matter how much self-denial it may cost us; no matter how little fame we may get by it; still, if we have the opportunity to do good, we are to do it, and should be thankful for the privilege. And it is to be done to all people. Not to our family only; not to our party; not to our neighbors; not to those of our own color; not to those who live in the same land with us, but to all mankind. If we can reach and benefit a man who lives on the other side of the globe, whom we have never seen, and shall never see in this world or in the world to come, still we are to do him good. Such is Christianity. And in this, as in all other respects, it differs from the narrow and selfish spirit of clanship which prevails all over the world.
Especially - On the same principle that a man is bound particularly to benefit his own family and friends. In his large and expansive zeal for the world at large, he is not to forget or neglect them. He is to feel that they have special claims on him. They are near him. They are bound to him by tender ties. They may be particularly dependent on him. Christianity does not relax the ties which bind us to our country, our family, and our friends. It makes them more close and tender, and excites us more faithfully to discharge the duties which grow out of these relations. But, in addition to that, it excites us to do good to all people, and to bless the stranger as well as the friend; the man who has a different color from our own, as well as he who has the same; the man who lives in another clime, as well as he who was born in the same country in which we live.
Of the household of faith - Christians are distinguished from other people primarily by their believing the gospel, and by its influence on their lives.
Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.
Ye see - This might be rendered see, in the imperative. So Tyndale renders it, "Behold." But it is more commonly supposed that it should be rendered in the indicative. The sense is not materially different whichever translation is adopted. The object of the apostle is, to direct their attention to the special proof of his love, which he had manifested in writing such a letter.
How large a letter - Considerable variety has existed in regard to the interpretation of this phrase. The word used here and translated "how large" (πηλίκος pēlikos), means. properly, "how great." Some have supposed that it refers to the size of the letters which Paul made in writing the Epistle - the length and crudeness of the characters which he used. Such interpreters suppose that he was not well versed in writing Greek, and that he used large letters. and those somewhat rudely made, like the Hebrew. So Doddridge and Whitby interpret it; and so Theodoret, Jerome, Theophylact, and some others. He might not, says Doddridge, have been well versed in the Greek characters; or "this inaccuracy of his writings might have been owing to the infirmity or weakness of his nerves, which he had hinted at before." Jerome says, that Paul was a Hebrew, and that he was unacquainted with the mode of writing Greek letters; and that because necessity demanded that he should write a letter in his own hand, contrary to his usual custom, he was obliged to form his characters in this crude manner. According to this interpretation, it was:
(1) A pledge to the Galatians that the Epistle was genuine, since it bore the marks of his own handwriting; and,
(2) It was proof of special affection for them that he was willing to undergo this labor on their account.
Others suppose that he means to refer to the size of the Epistle which he had written. Such is the interpretation of Grotius, Koppe, Bloomfield, Clarke, Locke, Chandler, and is, indeed, the common interpretation, as it is the obvious one. According to this, it was proof of special interest in them, and regard for them, that he had written to them a whole letter with his own hand. Usually he employed an amanuensis, and added his name, with a brief benediction or remark at the close; see the Romans 16:22 note; 1 Corinthians 16:21 note. What induced him to depart from his usual custom here is unknown. Jerome supposes that he refers here to what follows from this verse to the end of the Epistle, as that which he had written with his own hand, but the word ἔγραψα egrapsa, says Rosenmuller, refers rather to what he had written, than to that which he intended to write. On this verse, the reader may consult with advantage, Tholuck on the Life and Writings of Paul: German Selections, by Edwards and Park, Andover, 1839, pp. 35, 64, 65.
As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.
As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh - To be distinguished for their conformity to external rites and customs. To be known for their zeal in this cause. They sought to show their zeal by making converts, and by inducing others also to conform to those customs. Paul here refers, doubtless, to the Jewish teachers, and he says that their main object was to evince their zeal in the observance of rites and ceremonies.
They constrain you - You who are Gentiles. They insist on circumcision as indispensable to salvation.
Only lest they should suffer persecution - It is not from any true love for the cause of religion. It is, that they may avoid persecution from the Jews. If they should renounce the doctrine which taught that circumcision was indispensable, they would be exposed to the rage of the Jews, and would suffer persecution. Rather than do this, they make a show of great, zeal in inducing others to be circumcised.
For the cross of Christ - From attachment to the cause of a crucified Saviour. If they insisted on entire dependence on the merits of his blood, and renounced all dependence on rites and ceremonies, they would suffer persecution. This verse shows the true cause of the zeal which the Judaizing teachers evinced. It was the fear of persecution. It was the want of independence and boldness in maintaining the doctrine that people were to be saved only by the merits of the Lord Jesus. By attempting to blend together the doctrines of Judaism and Christianity; by maintaining that the observance of the Jewish rites was necessary, and yet that Jesus was the Messiah, they endeavored to keep in with both parties; and thus to escape the opposition of the Jews. It was an unhallowed compromise It was an attempt to blend things together which could not be united. One must really displace the other. If people depended on the rites of Moses, they had no need of dependence on the Messiah; if they professed to depend on him, then to rely on anything else was in fact to disown and reject him. Embracing the one system was in fact renouncing the other. Such is the argument of Paul; and such his solemn remonstrance against embracing any doctrine which would obscure the glory of simple dependence on the cross of Christ.
For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.
For neither they themselves who are circumcised - The Jewish teachers, or perhaps all Jews. It was true in general that the Jews did not wholly and entirely obey the Law of Moses, but it is probable that the apostle refers particularly here to the judaizing teachers in Galatia.
Keep the law - The Law of Moses, or the Law of God. Paul's idea is, that if they were circumcised they brought themselves under obligation to keep the whole law of God; see the note at Galatians 5:3. But they did not do it.
(1) no person perfectly observes the whole law of God.
(2) the Jewish nation as such were very far from doing it.
(3) it is probable that these persons did not pretend even to keep the whole Law of Moses.
Paul insists on it that if they were circumcised, and depended on that for salvation, they were under obligation to keep the whole law. But they did not. Probably they did not offer sacrifice, or join in any of the numerous observances of the Jewish nation, except some of the more prominent, such as circumcision. This, says Paul, is inconsistent in the highest degree; and they thus show their insincerity and hypocrisy.
That they may glory in your flesh - In having you as converts, and in persuading you to be circumcised, that they may show their zeal for the Law, and thus escape persecution. The phrase "in your flesh" here, is equivalent to "in your circumcision;" making use of your circumcision to promote their own importance, and to save themselves from persecution.
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
But God forbid - See the note at Romans 3:4. "For me it is not to glory except in the cross of Christ." The object of Paul here is evidently to place himself in contrast with the judaizing teachers, and to show his determined purpose to glory in nothing else but the cross of Christ. Well they knew that he had as much occasion for glorying in the things pertaining to the flesh, or in the observance of external rites and customs, as any of them. He had been circumcised. He had had all the advantages of accurate training in the knowledge of the Jewish law. He had entered on life with uncommon advantages. He had evinced a zeal that was not surpassed by any of them; and his life, so far as conformity to the religion in which he had been trained was concerned, was blameless; Philippians 3:4-8. This must have been to a great extent known to the Galatians; and by placing his own conduct in strong contrast with that of the Judaizing teachers, and showing that he had no ground of confidence in himself, he designed to bring back the minds of the Galatians to simple dependence on the cross.
That I should glory - That I should boast; or that I should rely on any thing else. Others glory in their conformity to the laws of Moses; others in their zeal, or their talents, or their learning, or their orthodoxy; others in their wealth, or their accomplishments; others in their family alliances, and their birth; but the supreme boast and glorying of a Christian is in the cross of Christ.
In the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ - In Jesus the crucified Messiah. It is a subject of rejoicing and glorying that we have such a Saviour. The world looked upon him with contempt; and the cross was a stumbling-block to the Jew, and folly to the Greek. Notes, 1 Corinthians 1:23. But to the Christian, that cross is the subject of glorying. It is so because:
(1) Of the love of him who suffered there;
(2) Of the purity and holiness of his character, for the innocent died there for the guilty;
(3) Of the honor there put on the Law of God by his dying to maintain it unsullied;
(4) Of the reconciliation there made for sin, accomplishing what could be done by no other oblation, and by no power of man;
(5) Of the pardon there procured for the guilty;
(6) Of the fact that through it we become dead to the world, and are made alive to God;
(7) Of the support and consolation which goes from that cross to sustain us in trial; and,
(8) Of the fact that it procured for us admission into heaven, a title to the world of glory. All is glory around the cross.
It was a glorious Saviour who died; it was glorious love that led him to die; it was a glorious object to redeem a world; and is is unspeakable glory to which he will raise lost and ruined sinners by his death. O who would not glory in such a Saviour! Compared with this, what trifles are all the objects in which people usually boast! And what a lesson is here furnished to the true Christian! Let us not boast of our wealth. It will soon leave us, or we shall be taken from it, and it can aid us little in the great matters that are before us. It will not ward off disease; it will not enable us to bear pain; it will not smooth the couch of death; it will not save the soul. Let us not glory in our strength, for it will soon fail; in our beauty, for we shall soon be undistinguished in the corruptions of the tomb; in our accomplishments, for they will not save us; in our learning, for it is not that by which we can be brought to heaven. But let us glory that we have for a Saviour the eternal Son of God - that glorious Being who was adored by the inhabitants of heaven; who made the worlds; who is pure, and lovely, and most holy; and who has undertaken our cause and died to save us. I desire no higher honor than to be saved by the Son of God. It is the exaltation of my nature, and shows me more than anything else its true dignity, that one so great and glorious sought my redemption. That cannot be an object of temporary value which he sought by coming from heaven, and if there is any object of real magnitude in this world, it is the soul which the eternal Son of God died to redeem.
By whom the world is crucified unto me ... - See the notes at Galatians 2:20.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
For in Christ Jesus - In his religion; see the note at Galatians 5:6.
But a new creature - The fact that a man is created anew, or born again, constitutes the real difference between him and other people. This is what Christ requires; this is the distinction which he designs to make. It is not by conformity to certain rites and customs that a man is to be accepted; it is not by elevated rank, or by wealth, or beauty, or blood; it is not by the color of the complexion; but the grand inquiry is, whether a man is born again, and is in fact a new creature in Christ Jesus; see the note at 2 Corinthians 5:17, for an explanation of the phrase "a new creature."
And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
And as many as walk - As many as live, for so the word walk is used in the Scriptures. According to this rule. Greek: "This canon"; see the word explained in the notes at 2 Corinthians 10:13.
Peace be on them - See the note at Romans 15:33.
From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
From henceforth - For the remaining time; that is, during the remainder of my life.
Let no man trouble me - This implies that he had had trouble of some kind, and he earnestly desires that he may have no more. What particular trouble he here refers to, is not certainly known, and commentators have not been agreed. It seems to me that the connection requires us to understand it of the molestation which he had in regard to his call to the apostolic office, and his authority to explain and defend the religion of the Redeemer. This had been one principal subject of this Epistle. His authority had been called in question. He had felt it necessary to go into a vindication of it. His instructions had been departed from on the ground that he was not one of the original apostles, and that he differed from others; see Galatians 1:11. Hence, all the anxiety and trouble which he had had in regard to their departure from the doctrines which he had taught them. He closes the whole subject of the Epistle by this tender and affecting language, the sense of which has been well expressed by Crellius: "I have shown my apostolic authority, and proved that I am commisioned by the Lord Jesus. I have stated and vindicated the great doctrine of justification by faith, and shown that the Mosaic law is not necessarily binding. On these points may I have no more trouble. I have enough for my nature to bear of other kinds. I bear in my body the impressive proofs that I am an apostle, and the sufferings that require all my fortitude to sustain them." These marks, received in the service of the Lord Jesus, and so strongly resembling those which he himself received, prove that I am truly engaged in his cause, and am commissioned by him. These wounds and sorrows are so many, that I have need of the kindness and prayers of Christians rather than to be compelled to vindicate myself, and to rebuke them for their own wanderings."
For I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus - The word here rendered "marks" (στίγματα stigmata), means properly the marks or brands which are pricked or burnt in upon the body. So slaves were sometimes branded by their masters to prevent their escape; and so devotees to an idol god sometimes caused to be impressed on themselves the name or image of the divinity which they adored. Herodotus (ii. 113) mentions a temple of Hercules in Egypt, in which if any slave took refuge, and had the sacred brands or marks impressed on him (στίγματα stigmata), he thereby devoted himself to the god, and it was not lawful for anyone to injure him. Many have supposed that Paul here says, in allusion to such a custom, that he had the name of the Redeemer impressed on his body, and that he regarded himself as devoted to him and his cause. It seems to me that by these marks or brands he refers to the weals which he had received in his body; the marks of stripes and sufferings which he endured in the service of the Redeemer. Compare 2 Corinthians 11:24-25.
He had repeatedly been scourged. He bore the marks of that on his person now. They were the evidences that he was devoted to the Saviour. He had received them in his cause; and they were the proofs that he belonged to the Lord Jesus. He had suffered for him, and had suffered much. Having thus suffered, and having thus the evidence that he belonged to the Saviour, and having by his sufferings given ample proof of that to others, he asks to be freed from further molestation. Some had in their body the marks of circumcision, the evidence that they were disciples of the Law of Moses; others had perhaps in their persons the image and name of an idol to which they were devoted; but the marks which he bore were the weals which he had received by being again and again whipped publicly in the cause of the Redeemer. To that Redeemer, therefore, he felt himself united, and from that attachment he would not allow himself to be diverted.
How often has an old soldier shown his scars with pride and exultation as a proof of his attachment to his country! Numerous scars; the loss of an arm, an eye, or a leg, are thus the much valued and vaunted pledges of attachment to liberty, and a passport to the confidence of every man who loves his country. "I prize this wound," said Lafayette, when struck in the foot by a musket ball at Germantown, "as among the most valued of my honors." So Paul felt in regard to the scourges which he had received in the cause of the Lord Jesus. They were his boast and his glory; the pledge that he had been engaged in the cause of the Saviour, and a passport to all who loved the Son of God. Christians now are not subjected to such stripes and scourings. But let us have some marks of our attachment to the Lord Jesus. By a holy life; by self-denial; by subdued animal affections; by zeal in the cause of truth; by an imitation of the Lord Jesus; and by the marks of suffering in our body, if we should be called to it, let us have some evidence that we are his, and be able to say, when we look on death and eternity, "we bear with us the evidence that we belong to the Son of God." To us that will be of more value than any ribbon or star indicating elevated rank; more valuable than a ducal coronet; more valuable than the brightest jewel that ever sparkled on the brow of royalty.
Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
Brethren, the grace ... - See the note at Romans 16:20.