|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:7-12 The life of a Christian is a race, wherein he must run, and hold on, if he would obtain the prize. It is not enough that we profess Christianity, but we must run well, by living up to that profession. Many who set out fairly in religion, are hindered in their progress, or turn out of the way. It concerns those who begin to turn out of the way, or to tire in it, seriously to inquire what hinders them. The opinion or persuasion, ver. 8, was, no doubt, that of mixing the works of the law with faith in Christ in justification. The apostle leaves them to judge whence it must arise, but sufficiently shows that it could be owing to none but Satan. It is dangerous for Christian churches to encourage those who follow, but especially who spread, destructive errors. And in reproving sin and error, we should always distinguish between the leaders and the led. The Jews were offended, because Christ was preached as the only salvation for sinners. If Paul and others would have admitted that the observance of the law of Moses was to be joined with faith in Christ, as necessary to salvation, then believers might have avoided many of the sufferings they underwent. The first beginnings of such leaven should be opposed. And assuredly those who persist in disturbing the church of Christ must bear their judgment.
Verses 7-12. - In these verses the language is remarkably curt and disjointed. Their style seems to betoken, either the mind of the writer musing in painful embarrassment, uncertain how best to grapple with the case before him through imperfect knowledge of the circumstances ("Who did hinder you?" ); or, possibly, the painful effort which it cost the apostle to "write with his own hand." In ver. 13 he at length takes up a line of thought which he is able to follow on with fulness and fluency. Verse 7. - Ye did run well (ἐτρέχετε καλῶς); full well ye were running. "To run" is a favourite figure with St. Paul, drawn from the foot-races of the Isthmian Games or other public games common throughout the Roman empire, and applied above (Galatians 2:2) to his own course of apostolic service, but here, as in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:17; and Philippians 3:14, in a wider reference to the course of general Christian obedience. In vers. 5, 6 the apostle has indicated the proper character of a Christian believer's life, as one which is animated by a faith energizing through love, and by the anticipation of attaining hereafter the awards to be rendered to the justified. Compare the general strain of thought, strikingly similar to that in the present context, pursued in Philippians 3:12-15. Obviously, one Important element in the comparison is the Christian's forward advance in self-improvement, as well as his continuing prosecution of work for Christ's cause. These characteristics had, and not long before, marked the manner of life of the Galatian Christians. Upon the recurrence of this recollection, here again, as in Galatians 3:1-4; Galatians 4:13-16, the apostle bewails the change that had taken place. They had been so full of joy and of love in believing (Galatians 4:14, 15). But now an incipient relinquishment of their hope in Christ had left them cheerless, and, in consequence, ready to look abroad in quest of other grounds of assured confidence; while also the thence ensuing conflicts of controversy and faction had marred their once happy mutual concord (ver. 15). The form of Christian life which the Galatian Churchmen had in those days presented to view was apparently similar to that which at an earlier date he had described as marking the Thessalonian Church (1 Thessalonians 1:3), and at a later time applauds in the Colossian (Colossians 1:4-6, 8). Who aid hinder you; or, who did drive you back (τίς ὑμᾶς ἐνέκοψε [Receptus, ἀνέκοψε]). The ἀνέκοψε of the Textus Receptus would mean, as in the margin of our English Bibles, "Who has driven [or, beaten, struck] you back," and would be illustrated by the use of the verb in Wisd. 18:23, "Standing between, he beat back the wrath," as Aaron did. But ἐνέκοψε is the reading of all recent editors. The precise meaning of ἐγκόπτω does not seem to be, as some suppose, "to stop," but rather "to hamper, shackle, impede." It occurs Acts 24:4, "be tedious;" 1 Thessalonians 2:18, "Satan hindered;" Romans 15:22 and 1 Peter 3:7, "hindered." So the substantive ἐγκοπή, 1 Corinthians 9:12, "That we may cause no hindrance to [clog the success of] the gospel." Possibly this sense is derived from the hindrance caused to the traveller by the road being "cut into" or cut up before he goes over it. But it is more probably connected with the use of κόπτω in the sense of "worry," as in Demosthenes, 'Olynth.,' it. p. 22, "Worried from time to time by these expeditions up and down." So here, "Who was it that clogged your steps in running your race?" Not positively "arrested your steps:" this disastrous result, it was to be hoped, was not yet brought about; they were only as yet lagging in their course. This interrogation "who" does not so much demand that the evil worker shall be named and brought to light, as express the pity of it, that any one should have been able to work them so much mischief; as in Galatians 3:1. Nevertheless, the author of the mischief had cause to tremble (see ver. 12, and note). That ye should not obey the truth? (τῇ ἀληθείᾳ [T. Tr., Lightfoot, omit the τῇ] μὴ πείθεσθαι;); that ye should not be hearkening unto the truth (or, unto truth)? "The truth" directly cites the gospel; that is, the gospel which proclaims righteousness as theirs who believe in Christ apart from works of the ceremonial law; comp. Galatians 3:5, "That the truth of the gospel might continue with you," the particular phase of the gospel there intended being clearly evinced from the circumstances referred to. "Truth," without the article, denoting "that which is true," cites the same by implication. The verb πείθομαι, frequently rendered in the Authorized Version by "obey," as Romans 2:8 and Hebrews 13:17, properly means to lend a compliant ear to advice or persuasion; "to hearken," as Acts 5:36, 37, 40; Acts 23:21; Acts 27:11. The apostle means that they were turning their ears away from the truth to listen to pernicious counsels or teaching. The verb is in the present tense with reference to the continued attention which they ought to be now giving to the gospel.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Ye did run well,.... In the Christian race; when they first set out in a profession of religion, they embraced and held fast, and were zealously attached to the truths of the Gospel; they were in the lively exercise of grace on its proper object, and very diligent in the discharge of duty; they made great proficiency in the knowledge of divine things, and ran with cheerfulness and without weariness in the ways of Christ, and in the paths of truth and holiness. The metaphor is taken from runners in a race; see 1 Corinthians 9:24 so far this is said to their commendation, but this should have been persisted in:
who did hinder you; not the apostle, or any of his brethren; no, they encouraged them to go on, and gave them all the assistance they could, to help them forward; but it was the false apostles that hindered them, who did all they could to remove them to another Gospel, and turn them aside out of the right way:
that ye should not obey the truth? of the Gospel, particularly the truth of justification by the righteousness of Christ; which they did not so cheerfully embrace, and show such a respect unto, as they had formerly done; see Galatians 3:1, and which he says not by way of inquiry, but of complaint and concern; and with some indignation against the persons who had been the means of hindering their Christian progress, and with a view to reclaim the Galatians if possible.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
7. Translate, "Ye were running well" in the Gospel race (1Co 9:24-26; Php 3:13, 14).
who, &c.—none whom you ought to have listened to [Bengel]: alluding to the Judaizers (compare Ga 3:1).
hinder—The Greek means, literally, "hinder by breaking up a road."
not obey the truth—not submit yourselves to the true Gospel way of justification.
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