Galatians 3:4
Have you suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.
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(4) Suffered so many things.—The Galatians, like other churches, were subjected to much persecution when first they embraced Christianity. The persecutors were probably their own Jewish countrymen, whose jealousy and rage they had braved in the name of the gospel as preached by St. Paul. Now they were abandoning that very gospel for the principles of those by whom they had been persecuted. Conduct could not be more fickle and “foolish.”

If it be yet in vain.If it be indeed in vain. The Apostle cannot quite bring himself to believe that it is, and he puts in this delicate qualification parenthetically, to show the Galatians that, much as appearances may be against them, he will not give up the hope that a lingering spark of their first joyous conviction, in the strength of which they had undergone persecution, yet remained.



Galatians 3:4 Preached on the last Sunday of the year.

This vehement question is usually taken to be a reminder to the fickle Galatians that their Christian faith had brought upon them much suffering from the hands of their unbelieving brethren, and to imply an exhortation to faithfulness to the Gospel lest they should stultify their past brave endurance. Yielding to the Judaising teachers, and thereby escaping the ‘offence of the Cross,’ they would make their past sufferings vain. But it may be suggested that the word ‘suffered’ here is rather used in what is its known sense elsewhere, namely, with the general idea of _feeling_, the nature of the feeling being undefined. It is a touching proof of the preponderance of pain and sorrow that by degrees the significance of the word has become inextricably intertwined with the thought of sadness; still, it is possible to take it in the text as meaning _experienced_ or _felt_, and to regard the Apostle as referring to the whole of the Galatians’ past experience, and as founding his appeal for their steadfastness on all the joys as well as the sorrows, which their faith had brought them.

Taking the words in this more general sense they become a question which it is well for us to ask ourselves at such a time as this, when the calendar naturally invites us to look backwards and ask ourselves what we have made of all our experiences in the past, or rather what, by the help of them all, we have made of ourselves.

I. The duty of retrospect.

For almost any reason it is good for us to be delivered from our prevailing absorption in the present. Whatever counterpoises the overwhelming weight of the present is, so far, a blessing and a good, and whatever softens the heart and keeps up even the lingering remembrance of early, dewy freshness and of the high aspirations which, even for a brief space, elevated our past selves is gain amidst the dusty commonplaces of to-day. We see things better and more clearly when we get a little away from them, as a face is more distinctly visible at armslength than when held close.

But our retrospects are too often almost as trivial and degrading as is our absorption in the present, and to prevent memory from becoming a minister of frivolity if not of sin, it is needful that such a question as that of our text be urgently asked by each of us. Memory must be in closest union with conscience, as all our faculties must be, or she is of little use. There is a mere sentimental luxury of memory which finds a pensive pleasure in the mere passing out from the hard present into the soft light, not without illusion in its beams, of the ‘days that are no more.’ Merely to live over again our sorrows and joys without any clear discernment of what their effects on our moral character have been, is not the retrospect that becomes a man, however it might suit an animal. We have to look back as a man might do escaping from the ocean on to some frail sand-bank which ever breaks off and crumbles away at his very heels. To remember the past mainly as it affected our joy or our sorrow is as unworthy as to regard the present from the same point of view, and robs both of their highest worth. To remember is only then blessed and productive of its highest possible good in us, when the question of our text insists on being faced, and the object of retrospect is not to try to rekindle the cold coals of past emotions, but to ascertain what effect on our present characters our past experiences have had. We have not to turn back and try to gather some lingering flowers, but to look for the fruit which has followed the fallen blossoms.

II. The true test for the past.

The question of our text implies, as we have already suggested, that our whole lives, with all their various and often opposite experiences, are yet an ordered whole, having a definite end. There is some purpose beyond the moment to be served. Our joys and our sorrows, our gains and our losses, the bright hours and the dark hours, and the hours that are neither eminently bright nor supremely dark, our failures and our successes, our hopes disappointed or fulfilled, and all the infinite variety of condition and environment through which our varying days and years have led us, co-operate for one end. It is life that makes men; the infant is a bundle of possibilities, and as the years go on, one possible avenue of development after another is blocked. The child might have been almost anything; the man has become hardened and fixed into one shape.

But all this variety of impulses and complicated experiences need the co-operation of the man himself if they are to reach their highest results in him. If he is simply recipient of these external forces acting upon him, they will shape him indeed, but he will be a poor creature. Life does not make men unless men take the command of life, and he who lets circumstances and externals guide him, as the long water weeds in a river are directed by its current, will, from the highest point of view, have experienced the variations of a lifetime in vain.

No doubt each of our experiences has its own immediate and lower purpose to serve, and these purposes are generally accomplished, but beyond these each has a further aim which is not reached without diligent carefulness and persistent effort on our parts. If we would be sure of what it is to suffer life’s experiences in vain, we have but to ask ourselves what life is given us for, and we all know that well enough to be able to judge how far we have used life to attain the highest ends of living. We may put these ends in various ways in our investigation of the results of our manifold experiences. Let us begin with the lowest--we received life that we might learn truth, then if our experience has not taught us wisdom it has been in vain. It is deplorable to have to look round and see how little the multitude of men are capable of forming anything like an independent and intelligent opinion, and how they are swayed by gusts of passion, by blind prejudice, by pretenders and quacks of all sorts. It is no less sad for us to turn our eyes within and discover, perhaps not without surprise and shame, how few of what we are self-complacent enough to call our opinions are due to our own convictions.

If we ever are honest enough with ourselves to catch a glimpse of our own unwisdom, the question of our text will press heavily upon us, and may help to make us wiser by teaching us how foolish we are. An infinite source of wisdom is open to us, and all the rich variety of our lives’ experiences has been lavished on us to help us, and what have we made of it all?

But we may rise a step higher and remember that we are made moral creatures. Therefore, whatever has not developed infant potentialities in us, and made them moral qualities, has been experienced in vain. ‘Not enjoyment and not sorrow is our destined end and way.’ Life is meant to make us love and do the good, and unless it has produced that effect on us, it has failed. If this be true, the world is full of failures, like the marred statues in a bad sculptor’s studio, and we ourselves have earnestly to confess that the discipline of life has too often been wasted upon us, and that of us the divine complaint from of old has been true: ‘In vain have I smitten thy children, they have received no correction.’

There is no sadder waste than the waste of sorrow, and alas! we all know how impotent our afflictions have been to make us better. But not afflictions only have failed in their appeal to us, our joys have as often been in vain as our sorrows, and memory, when it turns its lamp on the long past, sees so few points at which life has taught us to love goodness, and be good, that she may well quench her light and let the dead past bury its dead.

But we must rise still higher, and think of men as being made for God, and as being the only creatures known to us who are capable of religion. ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him for ever.’ And this chief end is in fullest harmony with the lower ends to which we have just referred, and they will never be realised in their fullest completeness unless that completeness is sought in this the chief end. From of old meditative souls have known that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, and that that fear is as certainly the beginning of goodness. It was not an irrelevant rebuke to the question, ‘What good thing shall I do?’ when Jesus set the eager young soul who asked it, to justify to himself his courteous and superficial application to Him of the abused and vulgarised title of ‘Good,’ and pointed him to God as the only Being to whom that title, in its perfectness, could be given. If ‘there is none good but one, that is God,’ man’s goodness must be drawn from Him, and morality without religion will in theory be incomplete, and in practice a delusion. If, then, men are made to need God, and capable of possessing Him, and of being possessed by Him, then the great question for all of us is, has life, with all its rapid whirl of changing circumstance and varying fortunes, drawn us closer to God, and made us more fit to receive more of Him? So supreme is this chief end that a life which has not attained it can only be regarded as ‘in vain’ whatever other successes it may have attained. So unspeakably more important and necessary is it, that compared with it all else sinks into nothingness; hence many lives which are dazzling successes in the eyes of men are ghastly failures in reality.

Now, if we take these plain principles with us in our retrospect of the past year we shall be launched on a very serious inquiry, and brought face to face with a very penitent answer. Some of us may have had great sorrows, and the tears may be scarcely dry upon our cheeks: some of us may have had great gladnesses, and our hearts may still be throbbing with the thrill: some of us may have had great successes, and some of us heavy losses, but the question for us to ask is not of the quality of our past experiences, but as to their effects upon us. Has life been so used by us as to help us to become wiser, better, more devout? And the answer to that question, if we are honest in our scrutiny of ourselves, and if memory has not been a mere sentimental luxury, must be that we have too often been but unfaithful recipients alike of God’s mercies and God’s chastisements, and have received much of the discipline of life, and remained undisciplined. The question of our text, if asked by me, would be impertinent, but it is asked of each of us by the stern voice of conscience, and for some of us by the lips of dear ones whose loss has been among our chiefest sufferings. God asks us this question, and it is hard to make-believe to Him.

III. The best issue of the retrospect.

The world says, ‘What I have written I have written,’ and there is a very solemn and terrible reality in the thought of the irrevocable past. Whether life has achieved the ends for which it was given or no, it has achieved some ends. It may have made us into characters the very opposite of God’s intention for us, but it has made us into certain characters which, so far as the world sees, can never be unmade or re-made. The world harshly preaches the indelibility of character, and proclaims that the Ethiopian may as soon be expected to change his skin or the leopard his spots as the man accustomed to do evil may learn to do well. That dreary fatalism which binds the effects of a dead past on a man’s shoulders, and forbids him to hope that anything will obliterate the marks of ‘what once hath been,’ is in violent contradiction to the large hope brought into the world by Jesus Christ. What we have written we _have_ written, and we have no power to erase the lines and make the sheet clean again, but Jesus Christ has taken away the handwriting ‘that was against us,’ nailing it to His cross. Instead of our old sin-worn and sin-marked selves, He proffers to each of us a new self, not the outcome of what we have been, but the image of what He is and the prophecy of what we shall be. By the great gift of holiness for the future by the impartation of His own life and spirit, Jesus makes all things new. The Gospel recognises to the full how bad some who have received it were, but it can willingly admit their past foulness, because it contrasts with all that former filth their present cleanness, and to the most inveterately depraved who have trusted in Christ rejoices to say, ‘Ye were washed, ye were sanctified, ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ 3:1-5 Several things made the folly of the Galatian Christians worse. They had the doctrine of the cross preached, and the Lord's supper administered among them, in both which Christ crucified, and the nature of his sufferings, had been fully and clearly set forth. Had they been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, by the ministration of the law, or on account of any works done by them in obedience thereto? Was it not by their hearing and embracing the doctrine of faith in Christ alone for justification? Which of these had God owned with tokens of his favour and acceptance? It was not by the first, but the last. And those must be very unwise, who suffer themselves to be turned away from the ministry and doctrine which have been blessed to their spiritual advantage. Alas, that men should turn from the all-important doctrine of Christ crucified, to listen to useless distinctions, mere moral preaching, or wild fancies! The god of this world, by various men and means, has blinded men's eyes, lest they should learn to trust in a crucified Saviour. We may boldly demand where the fruits of the Holy Spirit are most evidently brought forth? whether among those who preach justification by the works of the law, or those who preach the doctrine of faith? Assuredly among the latter.Have ye suffered so many things in vain? - Paul reminds them of what they had endured on account of their attachment to Christianity. He assures them, that if the opinions on account of which they had suffered were false, then their sufferings had been in vain. They were of no use to them - for what advantage was it to suffer for a false opinion? The opinions for which they had suffered had not been these which they now embraced. They were not those connected with the observance of the Jewish rites. They had suffered on account of their having embraced the gospel, the system of justification by a crucified Redeemer; and now, if those sentiments were wrong, why, their sufferings had been wholly in vain; see this argument pursued at much greater length in 1 Corinthians 15:18-19, 1 Corinthians 15:29-32. If it be yet in vain. That is, I trust it is not in vain. I hope you have not so far abandoned the gospel, that all your sufferings in its behalf have been of no avail. I believe the system is true; and if true, and you are sincere Christians, it will not he in vain that you have suffered in its behalf, though you have gone astray. I trust, that although your principles have been shaken, yet they have not been wholly overthrown, and that you will not reap the reward of your having suffered so much on account of the gospel. 4. Have ye suffered so many things—namely, persecution from Jews and from unbelieving fellow countrymen, incited by the Jews, at the time of your conversion.

in vain—fruitlessly, needlessly, since ye might have avoided them by professing Judaism [Grotius]. Or, shall ye, by falling from grace, lose the reward promised for all your sufferings, so that they shall be "in vain" (Ga 4:11; 1Co 15:2, 17-19, 29-32; 2Th 1:5-7; 2Jo 8)?

yet—rather, "If it be really (or 'indeed') in vain" [Ellicott]. "If, as it must be, what I have said, 'in vain,' is really the fact" [Alford]. I prefer understanding it as a mitigation of the preceding words. I hope better things of you, for I trust you will return from legalism to grace; if so, as I confidently expect, you will not have "suffered so many things in vain" [Estius]. For "God has given you the Spirit and has wrought mighty works among you" (Ga 3:5; Heb 10:32-36) [Bengel].

There is no doubt but these churches in the regions of Galatia had their share in the sufferings of Christians by the Jews for their adherence to and profession of the doctrine of the gospel, which they might either wholly, or in a great measure, have avoided, would they have complied with the Jews in the observance of those legal rites. Therefore, (saith the apostle), to what purpose have you suffered so much for the owning of the Christian religion, if you now bring yourselves under the bondage of circumcision, and other legal observances?

If it be yet in vain; by which words he either correcteth himself, as if he had said: But I hope better things of you, that I shall find that you did not suffer them in vain; or else he hinteth that their suffering so much would not be in vain, because, by their apostacy from the true faith for which they suffered, they would in effect deny it, as if it had been false, and their former suffering would rise up in judgment against them. Have ye suffered so many things in vain?.... These Galatians had suffered great reproach, many afflictions and persecutions for the sake of the Gospel, as all that embrace it must expect to do; and which to them that persevere in the faith of the Gospel will not be in vain, they will be followed with eternal life and glory; not that these things are meritorious of such happiness, or deserve such a reward; the reward of them is not of debt, but of grace. But, if such who have made a profession, and have suffered for it, should after all relinquish it, their sufferings for it are in vain; they will come short of that glory which is promised to them that suffer for righteousness sake: and this is another aggravation of the folly of these persons, that they should suffer so much persecution for the Gospel, which, if not true, they must have suffered in vain, and might as well have avoided it; and, if true, by relinquishing it not only sustain a great loss, but bring great hurt and damage to themselves:

if it be yet in vain; by which words the apostle does, as it were, correct himself, and expresses his hope of them, that they would see their mistake, revoke their error, and abide by the truth of the Gospel.

{3} Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.

(3) An exhortation by manner of reproach, so that they do not in vain suffer so many conflicts.

Galatians 3:4. After Paul, by the νῦν σαρκὶ ἐπιτελεῖσθε, has reminded his readers of all that they had most foolishly submitted to at the hands of the false apostles, in order to be made, according to their own and their teachers’ fancy, finished Christians, he now discloses to them the uselessness of it in the exclamation (not interrogation), “So much have ye suffered without profit!” What he means by τοσαῦτα ἐπάθετε, is therefore everything with which the false apostles in their Judaistic zeal had molested and burdened the Galatians,—the many exactions, in name of compliance with the law, which these had necessarily to undergo at the hands of their new teachers. Comp. Galatians 1:6 f., Galatians 4:10, Galatians 5:2; Galatians 5:8, Galatians 6:12, Galatians 2:4. Comp. 2 Corinthians 11:20. Bengel refers it to the patient endurance of the apostle’s ministry, produced through the Holy Spirit; but this view is not at all suggested by the context, and would not correspond to the sense of πάσχειν (but rather of ἀνέχεσθαι). All the expositors before Schomer (in Wolf) and Homberg, as also Grotius, Calovius, Wolf, Semler, Michaelis, Morus, Rückert, Olshausen, Reithmayr, and others, understand it (following Chrysostom and Augustine) of the sufferings and persecutions on account of Christianity; so that Paul asks, “Have ye suffered so much in vain? Seeing, namely, that ye have fallen away from the faith and hence cannot attain to the glory which tribulation brings in its train” (2 Corinthians 4:17; Romans 8:17). But, apart from the fact that no extraordinary sufferings on the part of the Galatians are either touched upon in the epistle (Galatians 4:29 is quite general in its character) or known to us otherwise, this interpretation is completely foreign to the connection. After Schomer and Homberg, others (including Schoettgen, Raphel, Kypke, Zachariae, Koppe, Rosenmüller, Borger, Flatt, Winer, Usteri, Schott, Baumgarten-Crusius, de Wette, Hilgenfeld, Wieseler, Hofmann, Matthias) explain it: “So many benefits (by means of the Spirit) have ye experienced in vain?” So also Fritzsche, Diss. I. in 2 Cor. p. 54, and Holsten. Certainly πάσχω, something befalls me, is a vox media (hence Matthies even wishes to understand it of the agreeable and disagreeable together), which, according to the well-known Greek usage, as the passive side of the idea of ποιεῖν, may be employed also of happy experiences (Xen. Anab. v. 5. 9: ἀγαθὸν μέν τι πάσχειν, κακὸν δὲ μηδέν); but, as the latter use of the word always occurs with a qualitative addition either expressed (εὖ, χάριν, τερπνόν, ἀγαθά, ὀνήσιμα, or the like) or indicated beyond doubt by the immediate context (as Joseph. Antt. iii. 15. Galatians 1 : ὅσα παθόντες ἐξ αὐτοῦ καὶ πηλίκων εὐεργεσιῶν μεταλαβόντες), it is not to be found at all in the whole of the New Test., the LXX., or the Apocrypha (not even Esther 9:29). Thus the interpretation, even if τοσαῦτα could convey any such qualitative definition of the text, is without precedent in the usage of Scripture. Paul in particular, often as he speaks about the experiences of divine grace, never uses for this purpose πάσχειν, which with him always denotes the experience of suffering. He would have written, as the correlative of the bestowal of grace, ἐλάβετε or ἐδέξασθε (2 Corinthians 6:1). Ewald’s suggestion of powerful and vehement movements of the Spirit is forced, and unwarranted by the text. The very word τοσαῦτα points to the suffering of evil, just as πολλά, μάλα πολλὰ παθεῖν, without κακά or the like, is frequently so used in Greek authors.

εἴγε καὶ εἰκῆ] A hint that the case might be still worse than was expressed in εἰκῆ: if indeed it is only in vain (and not even to the positive jeopardy of your Messianic salvation) that ye have suffered. On καί, compare Hartung, Partikell. I. p. 136; Baeuml. Partik. p. 150. So, in substance, Beza, Grotius, Wolf, Semler, Kypke, Michaelis, Rosenmüller, Paulus, Matthies, Olshausen, Baumgarten-Crusius, de Wette, Ewald, Wieseler, Matthias, and others. Chrysostom and his followers discover a mitigation and encouragement to improvement in the words (εἰ γὰρ βουληθείητέ φησιν ἀνανῆψαι καὶ ἀνακτήσασθαι ἑαυτοὺς, οὐκ εἰκῆ, Chrysostom), as also Ambrose, Luther,[119] Erasmus, Calvin, Clarius, Zeger, Calovius, Cornelius a Lapide, Estius, Zachariae, Morus, and others. In this case ΚΑΊ must be understood as really (Hartung, I. p. 132); but the idea of improvement, whereby the supposed case of the εἰκῆ would be cancelled, is not indicated by aught in the context. Even should the words be taken as merely leaving open the possibility, that matters had not actually already gone so far with the readers (Hofmann), Paul himself would have rendered his very earnest reproach τοσαῦτα ἐπάθ. εἰκῆ both problematical and ambiguous, and would thus have taken the whole pith out of it.

ΕἼΓΕ] assuming, namely, that ye even only, etc., makes the condition more prominent, and serves to intensify the mere εἰ. Paul fears that more may take place than that which was only expressed by εἰκῆ. This, however, is conveyed by the context, and is independent of the ΓΈ, instead of which ΠΈΡ might have been used. See Baeuml. l.c. p. 64 f. Comp. on 2 Corinthians 5:3; Ephesians 3:2. Still more marked prominence would have been given to the condition by εἴπερ γε καί (Plat. Theaet. p. 187 D; Herod. vi. 16).

[119] “Objurgat quidem, sed ita ut semper oleum juxta infundat, ne eos ad desperationem adigat.… Non omnino abjeci spem de vobis.”Galatians 3:4. The persecutions endured by the Galatian converts had all been due to the jealous animosity of the Jews: if they were now to accept the Law after all, they would proclaim their former resistance to have been wanton caprice on their part, which had led them to provoke persecution to no purpose (εἰκῆ) without any sufficient object.4. Have ye suffered so many things in vain?] The reference is, as in Galatians 3:2, to persecutions experienced by them at the time of their conversion. Though we have no record of these, yet, as Bp. Lightfoot remarks, the history “is equally silent on all that relates to the condition of the Galatian Churches; and while the converts to the faith in Pisidia and Lycaonia on the one side (Acts 14:2; Acts 14:5; Acts 14:19; Acts 14:22), and in proconsular Asia on the other (2 Corinthians 1:8; Acts 19:23, sqq.), were exposed to suffering, it is improbable that the Galatians alone should have escaped”. He adds, “If …, as is most likely, the Jews were the chief instigators in these persecutions St. Paul’s appeal becomes doubly significant”. Some would render, ‘Have ye experienced so many things?’ i.e. (1) so many spiritual blessings (which would make the question nearly a repetition of Galatians 3:2) or (2) such trials and such mercies.

if it be yet in vain] ‘if it be indeed in vain’. This is added in the exercise of that charity which ‘hopeth all things’.Galatians 3:4. Ἐπάθετε) have you suffered? While you suffered and bore with me most patiently (and this patience is the fruit of the Spirit), when I portrayed before your eyes Christ and His cross, Galatians 3:1, note, and laboured among you in the weakness of the flesh; as he speaks more explicitly afterwards at Galatians 4:11 (where the word εἰκῆ, in vain, is repeated), 13, etc. He does not say, have you done (comp. 2 John Galatians 3:8), because he refutes in this passage those that work; but he says, have you suffered, with great propriety of language (for he suffers, who is brought to the birth[19] [in Christ], Galatians 4:19; as also, he who runs, Galatians 5:7); also appositely to his argument, in order to amplify the indignity of their loss. There is a use of this verb not dissimilar, at Amos 6:6; Zechariah 11:5. Sometimes εὐ πάσχειν, ἀγαθὸν πάσχειν, is to receive [to be favoured with] a benefit, Bar 6:33 (34): but this is not the notion of the word adopted by Paul.—εἴγε καὶ εἰκῆ, if it be yet in vain) This is as it were a correction;[20] ye have not suffered so many things in vain; for God has given you the Spirit, and has wrought mighty works [‘virtutes,’ miracles, Galatians 3:5] in you. Comp. Hebrews 10:32.

[19] The patitur qui paritur of the original cannot be imitated in a translation.—TR.

[20] See App.Verse 4. - Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain (τοσαῦτα ἐπάθετε εἰκῆ εἴγε καὶ εἰκῆ); did ye suffer all those troubles for nought? if indeed really for nought. The ambiguity of τοσαῦτα, which means either "so many" or "so great," is preserved by the rendering all those. The Revisers put so many in the text, and "or so great" in the margin. In respect to ἐπάθετε, the leading of the context in which the verse is embedded might incline us to take the verb in the sense in which it frequently occurs in Greek writers, that of being subjects of such and such treatment, good as well as bad; as, for example, in Josephus, 'Ant.,' 3:15, 1, Ὅσα παθόντες ἐξ αὐτοῦ καὶ πηλικῶν εὐεργσιῶν μεταλαβόντες, "What treatment having received from him [sc. God], and what huge benefits having partaken of" - the character of the treatment being sufficiently indicated by the context as being that of kindness. But it is a fatal objection to this view of the passage that, in the forty passages or more in which the verb πάσχω is used in the New Testament, it never is used of good treatment, but always of bad; and so also always in the Septuagint. We are, therefore, shut up to the sense of "suffering ills," and must endeavour to find, if we can, some circumstances marking the troubles referred to which might serve to explain the seemingly abrupt mention of them here. And the probable explanation is this: those sufferings were brought upon the Galatian converts, not only through the influence of Jews, but also in consequence of the bitter enmity with which the Jews regarded St. Paul, as bringing converts over from among the Gentiles to the service of the one true God apart from any regard to the ceremonial Law of Moses. That Jews in general did thus regard St. Paul is shown by the suspicion which even Christian Jews felt towards him (Acts 21:21). For this no doubt, it was that the Jews in Asia Minor persecuted him from city to city as they did, their animosity against him extending itself also to these who had attached themselves to him as his disciples. That it did extend itself to his disciples as such appears, as from the nature of the case, so also from Acts 14:22, "That through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God;" as also it is evinced by the strongly indignant tone in which he speaks of the persecuting Jews in his two Epistles to the Thessalonians, written near the very time to which he here alludes (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9) - this indignation being best accounted for by the supposition that it was roused by his sympathy with the similarly originated sufferings of the Macedonian brethren to whom he was writing. That the troubles here referred to emanated from the hostility of Jewish legalists may be further gathered from Galatians 5:11; Galatians 6:12 (on which see Exposition). Those Jewish legalists hated both St. Paul and his converts, because they alike walked in "the Spirit," that is, in the element of Christian spirituality emancipated from the bondage of the Law, and not in "the flesh" of Mosaic ceremonialism. Hence it is that the mention in ver. 3 of the Galatian brethren having "begun with the Spirit," leads him on to the thought of the sufferings which just on that very account had been brought upon them. "For nought." This adverb εἰκῆ sometimes means, prospectively, "to no good," as in Galatians 4:11, "bestowed labour upon you in vain," and probably in 1 Corinthians 15:2; sometimes, retrospectively, "for no just cause," as in Colossians 2:18, "vainly puffed up." The English phrase, "for nought," has just a similar ambiguity. The apostle may, therefore, mean either this - Did ye suffer all these troubles to reap after all no benefit from your suffering them, forfeiting as you do (Galatians 5:4) the reward which you might else have expected from the great Retributor (2 Thessalonians 1:6, 7) through your forsaking that ground of faith on which ye then stood, if indeed ye have forsaken it? or this - Did ye provoke all that persecution without just cause? - if, indeed, there was no just cause as ye seem now to think. According to the former view, the Galatians were now nullifying the benefit which might have accrued to them from their former endurance of persecution; according to the latter, they were now stultifying their former conduct in provoking these persecutions. The first seems somewhat the easiest. Αἴ γε, as in Colossians 1:23. The concluding clause has been here regarded as a reaching forth of the apostle's soul towards the hope that better thoughts might yet prevail with the Galatian waverers, so that they would not lose the reward of having suffered for Christ - a hope which he thus glances at, if so be he might thus lure them to its realization. But another view of the words has commended itself to not a few eminent critics, namely, that the apostle glances at the darker prospect; as if he had said, "If it be, indeed, merely for nought, and not for far worse than that! By falling away from the gospel, ye not only lose the crown of confessorship: ye forfeit also your hope of your heavenly inheritance" (cf. Galatians 5:4). The conjunction καὶ is, confessedly, sometimes almost equivalent to "merely," "only," as e.g. in Homer, 'Odyssey,' 1:58, Ἱέμενος καὶ καπνὸν ἀποθρώσκοντα νοῆσαι ῆς γαίης, "Longing if only but to see the smoke leaping upward from his native land." But in the present case εἴ γε does not so readily suggest the last proposed suppletion of thought as it does the other. Have ye suffered (ἐπάθετε)

Or, did ye suffer. The exact sense is doubtful. By some it is held that the reference is to sufferings endured by the Galatian Christians either through heathen persecutions or Judaising emissaries. There is, however, no record in this Epistle or elsewhere of the Galatians having suffered special persecutions on account of their Christian profession. Others take the verb in a neutral sense, have ye experienced, or with a definite reference to the experience of benefits. In this neutral sense it is used in Class. from Homer down, and is accordingly joined with both κακῶς evilly, and εὖ well. Paul habitually used it in the sense of suffering evil, and there is no decisive instance, either in N.T. or lxx, of the neutral sense. In Class., where it is used of the experience of benefits, it is always accompanied by some qualifying word. When it stands alone it signifies to suffer evil. The evidence on the whole makes very strongly for the meaning suffer; in which case the reference is, probably, to the annoyances suffered from Judaising Christians. It must be said, on the other hand, that a reference to such annoyances seems far-fetched. If we could translate did ye experience (so Weizscker, Lipsius, Sieffert), the reference would be to the impartation of the gifts of the Spirit.

In vain (εἰκῇ)

So that ye have fallen from the faith and missed the inheritance of suffering and the rich fruitage of your spiritual gifts. See Matthew 5:10-12; Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 4:17.

If it be yet in vain (εἴ γε καὶ εἰκῇ)

The A.V. misses the force of the particles. Καὶ should be closely joined with εἰκῇ, with the sense of really. If, that is, it be really in vain.

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