|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:1-6 Christ will not be the Saviour of any who will not own and rely upon him as their only Saviour. Let us take heed to the warnings and persuasions of the apostle to stedfastness in the doctrine and liberty of the gospel. All true Christians, being taught by the Holy Spirit, wait for eternal life, the reward of righteousness, and the object of their hope, as the gift of God by faith in Christ; and not for the sake of their own works. The Jewish convert might observe the ceremonies or assert his liberty, the Gentile might disregard them or might attend to them, provided he did not depend upon them. No outward privileges or profession will avail to acceptance with God, without sincere faith in our Lord Jesus. True faith is a working grace; it works by love to God, and to our brethren. May we be of the number of those who, through the Spirit, wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. The danger of old was not in things of no consequence in themselves, as many forms and observances now are. But without faith working by love, all else is worthless, and compared with it other things are of small value.
Verse 3. - For I testify again (μαρτύρομαι δὲ πάλιν); I protest again. In using the word μαρτύρομαι, pro teste loquor, "I speak in the presence of a witness," the apostle intimates that he is making his affirmation with a definite sense of the Lord being his Witness (cf. Ephesians 4:17, "This I say and testify in the Lord"). The original construction and force of the verb are shown in Judith 7:28, Μαρτύρομαι ὑμῖν τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν. The apostle is wont to use it with a distinct sense of its emphatic import (see Acts 20:26; 1 Thessalonians 2:11). The word "again" points, not to the substance of the subsequent affirmation, as if it were a repetition of that mode in the preceding verse, which in fact it does not appear to be, but to the solemnity with which he makes this fresh affirmation. For the phrase, "I Paul say unto you," was one form of solemn affirmation which in effect gaged his personality as Christ's apostle and as acting in his name; and this "I protest" is another of equally solemn import. To every man that is circumcised (παντὶ ἀνθρώπῳ περιτεμνομένῳ); to every man that is having himself circumcised. St. Paul's statements elsewhere, and his own proceeding in circumcising Timothy, as well as the present context, make it certain that, however absolute and universal his affirmation at first sight seems to be, it is nevertheless meant to be taken as made with reference to certain understood conditions. Thus: "I protest to any one of you Gentiles, who, being already baptized into Christ, has himself circumcised with the view of winning righteousness and favour with God, by obeying this one prescription of the Law - that," etc. The conjunction δὲ is most probably the δὲ of transition (metabatic), introducing a fresh particular merely; and in this instance, as often, it needs not to be represented in translation at all. Certainly s for" is not its meaning. Possibly, as De Wette supposes, it points back, as an adversative, to the words," Christ shall profit you nothing," as if it were "but on the contrary." That he is a debtor to do the whole Law (o%ti o)feile/th ἐστὶν ὅλον τὸν νόμον ποιῆσαι); that he is under obligation (Greek, is a debtor) to do the whole Law. By having himself circumcised, he adopts the token of the Lord's covenant (Genesis 17:11, 13) made with those who were his people after the flesh; he enrolls himself with them to share with them their obligations. And to them the Lord had given the Law of Mount Sinai to be their appointed pedagogue till the Christ should come. "By being circumcised" (he means) "you of your own accord put yourself back afresh under this pedagogue, and just his bidding you must do. And for what? All the ordinances and ceremonies he puts you upon observing will leave you as far off as ever from remission of sins and justification with God! And this self-surrender to the pedagogue God has not asked for at your hands; while what he does require, that you withhold, even faith in him whom he hath sent: nay, not merely withhold your belief, but by open act and deed testify your disbelief in him." Under all that the apostle is here writing there appears to lie the principle, which, however, he has not distinctly stored, but which we see to be true, that circumcision was the peculiar badge of "Israel after the flesh," appertaining to them alone and not to be meddled with by any who did not mean to become naturalized as fellow-citizens with them. (For the use of ὀφειλέτης ἰστίν, comp. Romans 8:14.) The noun more commonly points to a debt incurred, or guiltiness; but here it simply denotes obligation.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
For I testify again to every man,.... This is the form of an oath, a calling God to witness, swearing by the living God, and declaring as in his presence to every man, whether Jew or Gentile, whoever he be:
that is circumcised; in order to obtain salvation, and as necessary to it:
that he is a debtor to do the whole law; and this it is that made circumcision an insupportable yoke, for that itself might be bore, and was bore by children of eight days old; but the fulfilling of the whole law cannot be done by any man; and yet everyone that is circumcised, in order to procure righteousness and life, is bound to keep the whole law; because the law is only his righteousness, when he observes all that is required in it, and as the Lord has commanded; if he does not, he is pronounced accursed: and this proves what was before said, that Christ is of no profit to such persons; because they reject him and his righteousness, and, as much as in them lie, make void his obedience, sufferings, and death: hence the same thing is repeated, though not in the same words, in the next verse.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
3. For—Greek, "Yea, more"; "Moreover."
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).
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