|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:16-26 If it be our care to act under the guidance and power of the blessed Spirit, though we may not be freed from the stirrings and oppositions of the corrupt nature which remains in us, it shall not have dominion over us. Believers are engaged in a conflict, in which they earnestly desire that grace may obtain full and speedy victory. And those who desire thus to give themselves up to be led by the Holy Spirit, are not under the law as a covenant of works, nor exposed to its awful curse. Their hatred of sin, and desires after holiness, show that they have a part in the salvation of the gospel. The works of the flesh are many and manifest. And these sins will shut men out of heaven. Yet what numbers, calling themselves Christians, live in these, and say they hope for heaven! The fruits of the Spirit, or of the renewed nature, which we are to do, are named. And as the apostle had chiefly named works of the flesh, not only hurtful to men themselves, but tending to make them so to one another, so here he chiefly notices the fruits of the Spirit, which tend to make Christians agreeable one to another, as well as to make them happy. The fruits of the Spirit plainly show, that such are led by the Spirit. By describing the works of the flesh and fruits of the Spirit, we are told what to avoid and oppose, and what we are to cherish and cultivate; and this is the sincere care and endeavour of all real Christians. Sin does not now reign in their mortal bodies, so that they obey it, Ro 6:12, for they seek to destroy it. Christ never will own those who yield themselves up to be the servants of sin. And it is not enough that we cease to do evil, but we must learn to do well. Our conversation will always be answerable to the principle which guides and governs us, Ro 8:5. We must set ourselves in earnest to mortify the deeds of the body, and to walk in newness of life. Not being desirous of vain-glory, or unduly wishing for the esteem and applause of men, not provoking or envying one another, but seeking to bring forth more abundantly those good fruits, which are, through Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God.
Verse 24. - And they that are Christ's (οἱ δὲ τοῦ Ξριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ [Receptus omits Ἰησοῦ]; now they that are of the Christ Jesus. The expression, ὁ Ξριστὸς Ἰησοῦς is not a common one. It occurs besides in Ephesians 3:1, τοῦ Ξριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, where, however, as indeed here, editors are not quite unanimous in retaining Ἱησοῦ: and Colossians 2:6, τὸν Ξριστὸν Ἰησοῦν τὸν Κύριον. Ξριστὸς Ἰησοῦς without the article is continually met with. The presence of the article seems to betoken that the word "Christ" is introduced as an official description rather than as a proper name, "the Christ Jesus" being thus a phrase similar to "the Lord Jesus." Not being so familiar to us as this latter, it appears at first more uncouth than it really is. To understand the precise force of the conjunction δέ, we must review the foregoing context. In vers. 16, 17 the apostle puts in contrast with each other, "walking by the Spirit" and "fulfilling the desire of the flesh." In the three following verses (19-21) he points out what kind of life the flesh prompts men to pursue, and its fatal consequences; in vers. 22, 23 the character formed by the Spirit's influence, and its blessed immunity from the censure of the Law. He is now concerned to show how these considerations apply to Christians. A Christian (he says) by becoming such puts away the flesh; is alive, therefore, if at all, by or to the Spirit; this being so, he must in all reason by the Spirit's direction rule his conduct. It results from this review that the δὲ turns the course of remark upon a new topic, namely, the essential character of a Christian's profession as a premiss to introduce the practical conclusion stated in ver. 25. The use of the possessive, "of the Christ Jesus," is similar to that in 1 Corinthians 3:23, "ye are Christ's;" Romans 8:9, "he is not his;" Romans14:8, "we are the Lord's." Comp. also 2 Timothy 2:19; Titus 2:14, "a people for his own possession;" Ephesians 1:14. We are made Christ's people, outwardly and in covenant, by baptism; but we cannot be his very own, really and vitally (Romans 8:9), unless through faith we recognize him as our Lord and of our own free will and deed attach ourselves heartily to his discipleship. In that hour of renunciation of sin we in truth "fasten the flesh to the cross." Have crucified the flesh (τὴν σάρκα ἐσταύρωσαν). That is, have put it away from them, as a thing to be abhorred, that it might die the death. These three several particulars of thought appear combined in the mixt mode embodied in the word "crucified." The verb, denoting simply affixing to the cross, and not putting to death by crucifixion, intimates the lingering character of the death which the flesh was to undergo. It was, indeed, put away at once, by a final decisive act of the will; but it would still for a while continue to live. Viewed thus, the notion represented by the image harmonizes with the statement in ver. 17 of the continued conflict which is being waged within us between the flesh and the Spirit. The time when the Christian did thus affix the flesh to the cross is indicated by the form of expression, of being "of Christ;" there can have been no time since he has been Christ's at which this thing had not been already done. It is, alas, but too possible to take the flesh still living down from the cross and clasp it afresh to our bosom; but cherishing that as our friend, we are Christ's no longer. Above (Galatians 2:20) the apostle wrote, "I am hanging on the cross with Christ: but I live;" but with a different application of the image. There he was thinking of the relation into which his union with the crucified Jesus brought him with respect to the Mosaical Law. Here he has in view the renunciation of sin which accompanies the addiction of ourselves to Christ's service. There he himself is crucified; here, the flesh. The cross once more recurs in Galatians 6:9, with yet another reference. The description here given by the apostle of Christian conversion tallies well with that given by him in Romans 6:3-11. There, however, the change through which a man becomes a Christian is couched under a different image - that of a death and resurrection, analogous to and founded upon the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which, in baptism, administered according to the original primitive mode, are represented by the immersion in and the emerging from the water. While illustrating this image, the apostle further says (ver. 6), "Our old man was crucified with him (συνεσταυρώθη), that the body of sin might be done away, that we should no longer be in bondage to sin;" where the Greek word rendered "was crucified with (him)" again denotes being affixed to the cross, in sympathy with him "who was made sin for us," with the view of bringing to nought "the body of sin "- which phrase, "body of sin," is nearly equivalent to "flesh," being the sum total of the vicious activities in which the flesh manifests itself; this bringing to nought or doing away (κατάργησις) of the body of sin, being the result ultimately to follow from the crucifixion, and not identical with it. In the passage in the Romans now referred to, the apostle brings to view, not only the just now cited description of the negative side of our regeneration, but also its positive side, of a passing into a new sphere of activities "walking in newness of life," and "living unto God in Christ Jesus." In our present passage the negative phrase is alone definitely stated. The difference is probably due to the fact that the figure of crucifying the flesh supplies the illustration of only the negative aspect; whereas baptism, with its watery burial and resurrection, represents the positive aspect as well. With the affections and lusts (σὺν τοῖς παθήμασι καὶ ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις); with its affections and its lusts. The difference between "affections" and "lusts" may be probably assumed to be this - that the former denotes disordered states of the soul viewed as in a condition of disease, well represented in the Authorized Version by "affections;" whine the latter points to the goings forth of the soul towards objects which it is wrong to pursue. In Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 1:11, and a number of other passages the noun παθήματα means "sufferings." Only once besides is it used in an ethical sense; in Romans 7:5 we read, "The παθήματα of sins which were through the Law wrought in our members to bring forth fruit unto death;" and in vers. 7, 8 the apostle instances "coveting" (ἐπιθυμία) as wrought by sin in his soul, by occasion of the commandment, "Thou shalt not covet." We seem led to conjecture that he meant that a sinful condition of the soul (πάθημα ἁμαρτίας) was by the commandment stimulated into a mere aggressive action. We have πάθος in Colossians 3:5 and 1 Thessalonians 4:5, and the plural πάθη in Romans 1:26; in each case of exorbitant sexual desire. But in the apostle's use of παθήματα in its ethical sense we seem to have neither the notion of extreme intensity nor the limitation to one particular class of desire, which are both of them apparent in his use of πάθος. This clause, "with its affections and its lusts," adds nothing to the substantial sense of "the flesh." The apostle seems led to subjoin the words by a pathetic remembrance o the moral miseries appertaining to "the flesh" - "those affections and those desires thereof which are so hard to control, and which are at the same time so fatal to our welfare."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And they that are Christ's,.... Not all as yet that are secretly so, who are chosen in him, and by him, are given by the Father to him in covenant, and whom he has purchased by his blood, and considers as his people, his sheep, and his children, though as yet they are not called by his grace; of these, as yet, what follows cannot be said, and therefore must mean such as are openly Christ's, whom he has laid hold on as his own in the effectual calling, who have his Spirit as a spirit of regeneration and sanctification, who have truly believed in Christ, and have given up themselves unto him.
have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts: by the flesh is meant, not the natural body to be macerated and afflicted with fastings, watchings, &c. but the corruption of nature, the old man and carnal heart. The Vulgate Latin version reads, "their own flesh"; and so do the Syriac and Ethiopic versions; their concern lying with their own, and not with the corruptions, affections, and lusts of others. By "the affections and lusts" are intended, not the natural affections and passions of the soul, and the desires of it; but its vile and inordinate affections, its corrupt inclinations, evil desires, and deceitful lusts; all which are "crucified" first "with Christ", as the Arabic version reads; see Romans 6:6 and which are so abolished, done away, and destroyed, by the sacrifice of Christ, that the damning power of them over his people is entirely gone. And in consequence of this crucifixion of the body of sin, with Christ upon the cross, when he finished and made an end of it, sin, with its passions and lusts, is crucified by the Spirit of God in regeneration and sanctification; so that it loses its governing power, and has not the dominion it had before: not but that the flesh, or corrupt nature, with its evil affections, and carnal lusts, are still in being, and are alive; as a person fastened to a cross may be alive, though he cannot act and move as before, being under restraints, so the old man, though crucified, and under the restraints of mighty grace, and cannot reign and govern as before, yet is alive, and acts, and operates, and oftentimes has great sway and influence; but whereas he is deprived of his reigning power, he is said to be crucified: and though this act is ascribed to them that are Christ's, yet not as done by them in their own strength, who are not able to grapple with one corruption, but as under the influence of the grace of Christ, and through the power of his Spirit; see Romans 8:13.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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" (Ga 5:22). "Man, by faith, is dead to the former standing point of a sinful life, and rises to a new life (Ga 5:25) of communion with Christ (Col 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).
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