|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
6:12-15 Proud, vain, and carnal hearts, are content with just so much religion as will help to keep up a fair show. But the apostle professes his own faith, hope, and joy; and that his principal glory was in the cross of Christ. By which is here meant, his sufferings and death on the cross, the doctrine of salvation by a crucified Redeemer. By Christ, or by the cross of Christ, the world is crucified to the believer, and he to the world. The more we consider the sufferings of the Redeemer from the world, the less likely shall we be to love the world. The apostle was as little affected by its charms, as a beholder would be by any thing which had been graceful in the face of a crucified person, when he beholds it blackened in the agonies of death. He was no more affected by the objects around him, than one who is expiring would be struck with any of the prospects his dying eyes might view from the cross on which he hung. And as to those who have truly believed in Christ Jesus, all things are counted as utterly worthless compared with him. There is a new creation; old things are passed away, and new views and dispositions are brought in under the regenerating influences of God the Holy Spirit. Believers are brought into a new world, and being created in Christ Jesus unto good works, are formed to a life of holiness. It is a change of mind and heart, whereby we are enabled to believe in the Lord Jesus, and to live to God; and where this inward, practical religion is wanting, outward professions, or names, will never stand in any stead.
Verse 12. - As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh (ὅσοι θελουσιν εὐπροσωπῆσαι ἐν σαρκί); all those who wish to make a fair show in the flesh. In this verse and the next the apostle singles out for especial animadversion certain Christians, Galatian Christians no doubt, who were actuated by the aim of standing fair with the religious world of Judaism. They were Gentile Christians and not Jews; this appears from their not themselves wishing to keep the Law; for if they had been Jews, the external observance of the Law, being natural to them from their infancy, would have been with them a matter of course: St. Paul himself would probably not have urged them to relinquish it. The verb εὐπροσωπεῖν is not found by the critics in any earlier Greek writer, though the adjective εὐπρόσωπος, fair-faced, is used of "specious" answers in Herodotus (7:168), and "specious words" conjoined with "fables" in Demosthenes ('De Corinthians,' p. 277). Aristophanes uses the word σεμνοπροσωπεῖν ('Nub.,' 362) to "carry a solemn and worshipful face." The notion of falsity, plainly hinted by εὐπροσωπῆσαι, reminds us, Bishop Lightfoot observes, of our Lord's words respecting whited sepulchres, which "outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly," etc. (Matthew 23:27). Compare the use of πρόσωπον, face, in 2 Corinthians 5:12, "glory in appearance, and not in heart." As the aorist of verbs denoting a certain state frequently expresses an entrance upon such a state (see ζήσω above, Galatians 2:19 and note), it probably is intimated that the persons referred to were conscious that their "outward appearance" was hitherto not acceptable to Jewish minds, but that they now were desirous of making it so. Time had been when they did not care so much about it. "In the flesh." This word "flesh" not unfrequently designates men's condition as unmodified by the Spirit of God; as when the apostle speaks of "being in the flesh" (Romans 7:5; Romans 8:8, 9): thence also circumstances or relations pertaining to this unspiritual condition, as in Philippians 3:3, 4; where the apostle speaks of "having confidence in the flesh," and goes on, in vers. 5, 6, to enumerate some of those circumstances or relations. Thus, again, in Ephesians 2:11, "ye, the Gentiles in the flesh," that is, who in that state of things in which men lived before the spiritual economy intervened, were the "uncircumcision (ἀκροβυσρία)," while the Jews were the "circumcision." But as the distinction between these two classes was signalized by an external corporeal mark, the apostle in that passage immediately after uses the expression, "in the flesh," in a varied sense, with reference to this latter, "that which is called circumcision, in the flesh, made by hands." With similar variation of meaning the word "flesh" is used here. The Christians spoken of, losing sight of the cross of Christ and the Spirit's work, were becoming possessed by feelings belonging to the old "carnal" relations between Jews and Gentiles, and so were making it their ambition to figure with advantage in the eyes of the circumcision, as well as to escape their enmity. And then, as in the passage just referred to (Ephesians 2:11), the apostle passes from this sense of the phrase, "in the flesh," to another relating to corporeal flesh; for this he does in the next verse, in the words, "that they may glory in your flesh." They constrain you to be circumcised (οϋτοι ἀναγκάζουσιν ὑμᾶς περιτέμνεσθαι); these compel you to be circumcised. "Compel;" the same verb as was used above (Galatians 2:14) of St. Peter's attitude towards the Gentile believers at Antioch. As here applied, it means "advise," "urge," argue for it as right and necessary for salvation, insist upon it as a condition of friendship. "These;" not, perhaps, meaning "these only," "none but these;" it appears enough to suppose that the apostle, from definite information which he had received, was persuaded that some of those who took the lead in urging onward the Judaizing movement were led to join in it by the cowardly motives here described. With indignant scorn, he says," As surely as a man wants to stand well with the world, so surely will he be found with these circumcisers."Only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ (μόνον ἵνα τῷ σταυρῷ τοῦ Ξριστοῦ μὴ διώκωνται [Textus Receptus, μόνον ἵνα μὴ τῷ σταυρῷ τοῦ Ξριστοῦ διώκωνται]); only that they may not by means of the cross of Christ suffer persecution. "Only that;" that is, for no other reason than that. The μὴ is thrust out of its proper position in the sentence (which is that assigned to it in the Textus Receptus) by the fervent of the writer's feelings. To himself the cross of Christ seemed the centre of all glory and blessedness; to be connected with it he would be well pleased to suffer martyrdom; but these men could be well content to shelve it out of sight, and, in fact, were doing so; and what for? because the Jews did not like it, and they did not wish to get into trouble by offending them! A grand disdain prompts the apostle, at the cost of impairing the smooth run of the sentence, to (as it were) balance against each other the "cross of Christ" and "not being persecuted." The construction of the dative to express "by means of," that by which a certain result is brought about, is not very common; but we have it in Romans 11:20, τῇ ἀπιστίᾳ ἐξεκλάσθησαν and ibid., 30, ἠλεήθητε τῇ τούτων ἀπιστίᾳ: 2 Corinthians 2:12, τῷ μὴ εὑρεῖν. Our attention is in this passage again drawn to the manner in which the Jews regarded "the word of the cross" (1 Corinthians 1:18), as that "word" was unfolded by St. Paul and received by his disciples among the Gentiles. The great point of offence (σκάνδαλον) in the apostle's teaching respecting it lay in his presenting its pollution in the view of the Law, as inferring the abrogation of the ceremonial institute itself. On this account the Jews could not abide him nor those who attached themselves to him as their teacher, though in a degree able to put up with Christians not anti-Judaists. To the Galatians he had presented "Christ crucified" (Galatians 3:1) as he saw him to be, and they had accepted the doctrine. But now some, at least, of them were beginning to feel uneasy at observing how the Jews in their neighbourhood regarded Paul and those who attached themselves closely to Paul. Had not the Jews (they felt) high claims to consideration? Were they not the original depositaries of the oracles of God? Was not their religion venerable for its antiquity, magnificent in its temple and ritual, and in origin Divine? To these new converts from the gross spiritual darkness and degradation of heathenism, some of them, perhaps, drawn from it originally by the teaching of non-Christian Jews, the adherents to the ancient faith would naturally appear entitled to high respect - respect which they themselves were also not backward in claiming (see Romans 2:19, 20). When the personal influence exercised upon their minds by the holy love and fervour of the apostle had through his absence begun to wane, they also, we may imagine, began to get disheartened, by feeling that their Christian discipleship was viewed with disfavour by their Jewish neighbours, by reason of its Pauline complexion; that on this account the Jews looked upon themselves, though worshippers of the same God, as unworthy of notice; nay, were even disposed to point them out to the surrounding heathens, only too willing to follow up the hint, as proper objects of contempt and ill usage (see for illustration, Acts 13; Acts 14:22; Acts 17; Acts 18; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). And herewith we have to bear in mind also that Judaism was in Roman jurisprudence treated as a tolerated religion (religio licita); and that, as long as Christians were regarded as belonging to a sect or branch of Judaism, they might seem to be entitled, in the eyes of Roman law, to the same toleration as the Jews themselves enjoyed. But if the Jews cast them off or disowned them they might forfeit such immunity, and become liable to be treated, not only by mobs, but by the Roman law itself, as offenders. The persons, then, here censured by the apostle may be supposed to have pursued the course they did with the idea that, by making themselves acceptable to the Jews through the adoption to a limited extent of Jewish ceremonies, and especially through the acceptance in their own person and the urging upon others of circumcision, they would relieve themselves of "the offence of the cross" (ch. 5:4). Without ceasing to be Christians, they would wipe themselves clear of the odium which with the Jews attached to Paul and those who held with Paul. Such seems to be the situation to which St. Paul's words allude. Bishop Lightfoot interprets it somewhat differently.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh,.... By whom are meant the false apostles, who are here described, and their views, aims, and ends, opened and exposed. These were very desirous to carry a good face of things outwardly, of appearing outwardly righteous before men, and to be accounted so by them; and therefore did all they to be seen of them, and gain applause from them. They were such, as the Syriac version renders the words, as desired "to glory in the flesh"; their carnal descent and privileges, in their being Hebrews, the seed of Abraham, of the stock of Israel; and in the circumcision of their flesh; or in their external gifts, their natural parts, acquired abilities, learning, eloquence, and the like: moreover, as the Vulgate Latin version reads, "they were willing to please in the flesh": to please carnal men, Israel after the flesh, in carnal and fleshly things; they sought not to please God or Christ, but men, and so were not the servants of either. They were desirous, as the Arabic version renders the words, "that honour should be done them in" "the flesh"; they sought external glory from men, and to be outwardly and publicly honoured by them; and all their religion was a mere outward show, a piece of pageantry; which lay in the observation of carnal ordinances, such as respected meats and drinks, circumcision in the flesh, and other carnal commandments:
they constrain you to be circumcised; not by using any outward force and violence; but either by their example, which had great influence, as that has both with respect to the embracing of evil principles, and giving in to bad practices: or by their doctrine; the arguments they made use of to persuade them to it, being formed and managed with great art and subtlety, wrought strongly upon them: or rather by overawing them, with threatenings of hell and damnation; affirming, that unless they were circumcised, they could not be saved: and their end was,
only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ, or "by the cross of Christ"; meaning either the manner in which persecution might be suffered, as by being reproached, ill used, and suffering death as Christ did; or by bearing the cross of affliction and tribulation Christ has appointed for, and calls his followers to; or else the object for which it is endured, the preaching of the cross, or the Gospel of salvation by a crucified Christ; for this doctrine, and the preaching and professing of it, and living a life answerable to it, always bring persecution with them: and that persecution, which is more especially here regarded, was what came from the Jews, who in general were greatly offended at the preaching of a crucified Christ; and particularly from the professing part among them, who though they believed in Christ, and were not displeased at preaching in his name; yet were greatly affronted at, and highly resented, and as much as in them lay, by reproaches and hard censures, and the like, persecuted those who opposed circumcision, and the ceremonies of the law; and to avoid the ill will, contempt, and persecution of these, the false teachers preached up circumcision, and obliged their people to submit to it.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
12. Contrast between his zeal in their behalf, implied in Ga 6:11, and the zeal for self on the part of the Judaizers.
make a fair show—(2Co 5:12).
in the flesh—in outward things.
they—it is "these" who
constrain you—by example (Ga 6:13) and importuning.
only lest—"only that they may not," &c. (compare Ga 5:11).
suffer persecution—They escaped in a great degree the Jews' bitterness against Christianity and the offense of the cross of Christ, by making the Mosaic law a necessary preliminary; in fact, making Christian converts into Jewish proselytes.
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