Galatians 6:12
As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) To make a fair shew in the flesh.—To obtain a reputation for religiousness in externals, like the hypocrites, who “love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men” (Matthew 6:5). The object of the Judaisers was by this means to keep in with their countrymen, the Jews, and even to gain favour amongst them by seeming to win over proselytes to the Mosaic law.

Only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.—What aroused the antagonism of the Jews against the Christians was evidently not so much the confession of the Messiahship of Jesus as the declared abolition of the Law of Moses. By suppressing this side of Christian teaching, the Judaisers could easily obtain toleration for their other tenets. If, on the other hand, they were to emphasise it, the full weight of persecution would fall upon them—its ostensible ground being the doctrine of a crucified Messiah. Accordingly, they persuaded as many of the Galatians as they could to accept circumcision, and made the most of this propagandist zeal to their Jewish neighbours.

Galatians 6:12-13. The sum of all is this: As many as desire to make a fair show — Or appearance; that is, to preserve a fair character; in the flesh — In external things, or with respect to their observing the Jewish rites and ceremonies; these would constrain you — Gentile converts, both by their example and importunity; to be circumcised — And subject, with them, to the carnal ordinances of the law. The apostle’s meaning is, that the false teachers wished to appear well in the eyes of the Jews, on account of their attachment to the law of Moses, which in other passages he terms the flesh, in opposition to the spiritual dispensation of the gospel. Only lest, &c. — As if he had said, They do not act thus with a single eye to the glory of God, or from a principle of conscience, but only lest they should suffer persecution — From the unbelieving Jews; for the cross of Christ — For maintaining that faith in a crucified Saviour is alone sufficient for justification. It is well known that the Jewish chief priests and elders were great persecutors of the disciples of Christ, and began their persecution very early. See John 9:22; John 12:22; John 19:38. Now it seems the mandates of their council were received with implicit submission, even by the synagogues in the Gentile countries, Acts 9:2. The false teachers, therefore, of whom the apostle speaks, to recommend themselves to these rulers at Jerusalem, who stirred up the unbelieving Jews every where against the Christians, fell upon the scheme of blending Judaism with the gospel; and, as the apostle informs us, urged the Gentiles to receive circumcision, merely that they themselves might not be persecuted for the gospel doctrine of salvation through a crucified Messiah. For neither they themselves — Who are circumcised, and so are solemnly obliged to observe the whole of it; keep the law — Namely, in other points of greater importance; so far are they from a real zeal for it, or from acting uprightly and conscientiously in this matter; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh — May boast of you as their proselytes, and make a merit of this with the other Jews.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.As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh - To be distinguished for their conformity to external rites and customs. To be known for their zeal in this cause. They sought to show their zeal by making converts, and by inducing others also to conform to those customs. Paul here refers, doubtless, to the Jewish teachers, and he says that their main object was to evince their zeal in the observance of rites and ceremonies.

They constrain you - You who are Gentiles. They insist on circumcision as indispensable to salvation.

Only lest they should suffer persecution - It is not from any true love for the cause of religion. It is, that they may avoid persecution from the Jews. If they should renounce the doctrine which taught that circumcision was indispensable, they would be exposed to the rage of the Jews, and would suffer persecution. Rather than do this, they make a show of great, zeal in inducing others to be circumcised.

For the cross of Christ - From attachment to the cause of a crucified Saviour. If they insisted on entire dependence on the merits of his blood, and renounced all dependence on rites and ceremonies, they would suffer persecution. This verse shows the true cause of the zeal which the Judaizing teachers evinced. It was the fear of persecution. It was the want of independence and boldness in maintaining the doctrine that people were to be saved only by the merits of the Lord Jesus. By attempting to blend together the doctrines of Judaism and Christianity; by maintaining that the observance of the Jewish rites was necessary, and yet that Jesus was the Messiah, they endeavored to keep in with both parties; and thus to escape the opposition of the Jews. It was an unhallowed compromise It was an attempt to blend things together which could not be united. One must really displace the other. If people depended on the rites of Moses, they had no need of dependence on the Messiah; if they professed to depend on him, then to rely on anything else was in fact to disown and reject him. Embracing the one system was in fact renouncing the other. Such is the argument of Paul; and such his solemn remonstrance against embracing any doctrine which would obscure the glory of simple dependence on the cross of Christ.

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.

The apostle here reflecteth upon those false teachers who had perverted this church, and discovereth their hypocrisy under all their pretences of good will to them. These are those who (he saith) desired

to make a fair show in the flesh; that is, to make a fair show to the world, as men very devout, which formalists and persons over zealous for rituals ordinarily do. These would

constrain, were very urgent to persuade, these believers

to be circumcised; not out of any love they had to the law of God, or to the souls of these Galatians, but

only to avoid persecution; for as the Jews were more favourable to such Christians, who, together with the doctrine of Christ, observed also their rites and legal ceremonies; so we are told by so of the ancients, that some of the Roman emperors, by their edicts, gave liberty to the Jews, in the provinces subject to them, to use their own religious rites: now all who were circumcised went under that notion, so had more liberty than those who were not circumcised, who were persecuted both by the Jewish and the heathen magistrates. The apostle saith, that these false teachers, who so zealously urged circumcision upon this Gentile church, did it for the avoiding the danger of persecution; which they saw would follow their standing fast in their gospel liberty, and not bringing themselves under the law: which persecution, he tacitly hinteth, ought not to be so industriously shunned and avoided, because it was for Christ’s sake, who had endured the cross for them. 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.

As many as desire to make a {h} fair shew in {i} the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the {k} cross of Christ.

(h) He sets a fair show against the truth.

(i) In the keeping of ceremonies.

(k) For the preaching of him that was crucified.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Galatians 6:12.[265] All those whose wish and will are directed to making a fair show in the flesh, that is, to the having a specious appearance, while they are involved in fleshly habits,—this class of men force circumcision upon you, and they do so solely for the reason that they may not bring on themselves persecution on account of the cross of Christ. This persecution they would incur on the part of the Jews, if they preached the cross of Christ and at the same time rejected circumcision; whereas, by insisting on circumcision, they disarmed the zeal of the Jews for the law (comp. on Galatians 5:11), and removed from the cross of Christ all occasion of their experiencing persecution for it (note the critically correct position of the μή). In order to understand the passage rightly, we must note that the emphasis is on ΕὐΠΡΟΣΩΠΉΣΑΙ (not on ἘΝ ΣΑΡΚΊ): they desire to combine a pleasing exterior with an unspiritual, carnal state of life, in which they really are. Thus is characterized the hypocritical conduct of these people, whose jesuitry makes them resemble the τάφοις κεκονιαμένοις (Matthew 23:27; comp. Acts 23:3). Comp. 2 Corinthians 5:12. So many as belong to this dissembling class, they constrain you to be circumcised!

εὐπρόσωπος] speciosus facie, sometimes applied to actual beauty of person (as Xen. Mem. i. 3. 10), and sometimes to a mere specious appearance (as Herod. vii. 168; commonly used among Greek authors (comp. Genesis 12:11); but εὐπροσωπεῖν is not preserved elsewhere in the literary language. In Dion. Hal. Galatians 3:11 we find ΕὐΠΡΟΣΩΠΊΑ; in Symmachus, Psalm 141:6, ΕὐΠΡΟΣΩΠΊΣΘΗΣΑΝ. Comp. ΦΑΙΝΟΠΡΟΣΩΠΕῖΝ, Cic. Att. vii. 21, xiv. 21; σεμνοπροσωπεῖν, Arist. Nub. 363.

ἐν σαρκί] is the element of the sinful nature of man (Galatians 6:8; Galatians 3:3; Galatians 5:17), in which, instead of being renewed and refined by the Holy Spirit, those hypocrites are found living, and at the same time endeavour to give to themselves a good colouring which would prepossess the opinion of others in their favour. The juxtaposition of the words, “to look fair in the flesh” reveals the moral contradiction in their nature, and delineates their whole portraiture, as if with one sharp touch, indignantly, vigorously, and appropriately. The words are usually explained: “those who desire to be well-pleasing by means of outward carnal things, such as circumcision and the observance of the ceremonial law generally,” Rückert; comp. Beza, Gomarus, Koppe, Rosenmüller, Winer, Usteri, Matthies, Schott, Olshausen, and others. Of course ἐν σαρκί might, ex adjuncto, obtain the sense, by means of circumcision and observance of the law (comp. Romans 2:28); but in this passage the context suggests no ground for thinking of anything else than that which was just shortly before meant by σάρξ, in the contrast drawn between ΣΆΡΞ and ΠΝΕῦΜΑ. Comp. Wieseler. And how feeble and inexpressive, when placed at the commencement of so energetic a passage, would be the description of the misleaders which this interpretation would yield! Holsten interprets in a similar way, but developes the sense more accurately, and takes ἘΝ ΣΑΡΚΊ as the sphere in which the ΕὐΠΡ. manifests itself, “all who desire a fair show in the fleshly domain;” this applies in the concrete to circumcision, which could have true significance only as a sign of inward righteousness (Romans 3:25 f.), but to which these persons adhered “for its fair show of righteousness.” But it is not until Galatians 6:13 that σάρξ obtains its reference in harmony with the text to circumcision; in respect to which, moreover, the idea, that circumcision is the seal of righteousness, is not at all intimated in the connection of our passage. Lastly, Chrysostom and his successors, Erasmus, Calvin, Estius, Grotius, and others, have assigned to ἑν σαρκί the unmeaning sense ΠΑΡʼ ἈΝΘΡΏΠΟΙς; and Hofmann has arrived at the trifling interpretation, that the idea meant was “a pleasing cheerfulness of outward appearance, springing from and testifying to a natural amiability, to which the opponents of the apostle aspired: they would fain appear with the expression of natural amiability.” Thus the description of the opponents placed at the head of this final outburst, so full of holy severity and indignation, would simply amount to the assertion of an amiable bonhommie by which they were impelled. Holsten justly designates this view as inconceivable.

ἀναγκάζουσιν] they are occupied with, busy themselves in, forcing circumcision upon you. See Bernhardy, p. 370. As to the idea of ἈΝΑΓΚΆΖ. see on Matthew 14:22. Comp. Galatians 2:3; Galatians 2:14.

ΜΌΝΟΝ ἽΝΑ] merely from the (self-interested) motive, that they, etc.

τῷ σταυρῷ τοῦ Χριστοῦ] that is, on account of the cross of Christ, because they preach Christ as crucified. The instrumental dative denotes the cause of the persecution. See Romans 11:20; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Bernhardy, p. 101 f.; “Winer, p. 202 f. [E. T. 270]. So most expositors, including Rückert, Matthies, Usteri, Schott, Olshausen, Baumgarten-Crusius, Hilgenfeld, Wieseler, Hofmann. But others explain the words according to the idea of the παθήματα Χριστοῦ (see on 2 Corinthians 1:5; Colossians 1:24): “ne participes fiant suppliciorum Christi,” Winer; comp. Jerome, Luther, Grotius, Semler, Michaelis, Koppe, Morus, de Wette, Ewald. The evident reference to Galatians 5:11[266] is decidedly opposed to this interpretation, even apart from the singular nature of the idea τῷ σταυρῷ διώκεσθαι (Paul would have written ταῖς θλίψεσι or the like).

[265] As to vv. 12–16, see the excursus of Holsten, z. Evang. d. Paul u. Petr. 343 ff.

[266] Holsten holds the peculiar view, that what is in Galatians 5:11 expressed objectively, receives here a subjective turn: “in order that they (those who are offended) should no more be persecuted through (the offence at) the cross.” The σταυρὸς τ. Χ. had, in his view, been to the Jewish Christians an obscure point, and in presence of the Pauline churches a painful wound, by the recollection of which they were, in a metaphorical sense, persecuted. But what plain reader would have been able to unriddle a sense so enigmatically wrapped up—a sense which Paul might easily have expressed in clear words?Galatians 6:12-13. Paul impugns the sincerity of the agitators: their affected zeal for the Law was a pretext with a view to disarming Jewish enmity: they urged the circumcision of Gentiles also to gratify their own vanity. They had probably, like the Jewish Christians at Antioch (cf. Galatians 2:13), been guilty of inconsistency in their practice: but Paul apparently relies also on his argument in Galatians 2:16 that Jewish converts had by the mere act of embracing Christ confessed their own inability to keep the Law, and could not therefore be sincere in preaching to others obedience to its rules.—τῷ σταυρῷ. This dative cannot surely mean for (i.e., by reason of) the cross. If this had been the meaning, it would have been expressed by διὰ τὸν σταυρόν. The correct translation seems to be, persecuted with the cross, i.e., the cross of outward suffering which was in those days the lot of so many converted Jews, and notably of Paul himself. The Cross of Christ is here identified with persecution as it is in Php 3:18 with self-denial.12. Reverting to the error which had perhaps suggested, and which certainly occupies so prominent a place in the Epistle, St Paul unmasks those who were its authors and propagators; contrasting their conduct and motives with his own.

All who desire to make a fair shew in externals, these it is who constrain you to submit to the external rite of circumcision—and this, not because they are zealous for the law, but only that they may escape persecution for the Cross of Christ.

to make a fair shew] ‘to present a fair outside to the world’, like the scribes and Pharisees, who were compared by our Lord to ‘whited sepulchres, which outwardly are fair to look upon, but within are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness,’ Matthew 23:27.

in the flesh] in that which is simply external, with close reference to the rite of circumcision, and in sharp contrast to that principle of faith of which a Crucified Saviour is the object and ‘a new creature’ the result. A careful consideration of Php 3:3-5, will help to the understanding of St Paul’s use of this phrase. “We are the circumcision, who worship God in Spirit, and glory in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh: though I myself might even have confidence in the flesh … circumcised the eighth day, &c.” Comp. Romans 2:28-29 where ‘circumcision in the flesh’, the material rite, is contrasted with ‘circumcision of the heart, in spirit &c.’

constrain you] Make it morally obligatory on you. Comp. ch. Galatians 2:14.

only lest] Not because they care for the Law, but solely because they lack courage to face the persecution which attends the doctrine of the Cross.

for the cross of Christ] Lit. ‘by’ i.e. because of the Cross of Christ. If the false teachers constrain you to be, ‘make it necessary’ that you be circumcised, it implies that Christ’s death on the Cross is not sufficient for your salvation. To believe in, and to proclaim that sufficiency, has in all ages constituted ‘the offence of the Cross,’ and has brought obloguy and ill-usage on those who so believe and confess it. This is to suffer persecution for the Cross of Christ.Galatians 6:12. Ὅσοι) as many as.—εὐπροσωπῆσαι) to make a fair show before you: comp. 2 Corinthians 5:12.—ἀναγκάζουσιν, constrain) by their example, Galatians 6:13, and importunity. The same word occurs, ch. Galatians 2:3; Galatians 2:14.—μόνον, only) Such persons therefore wished to be considered in other respects as Christians.—διώκωνται, they should suffer persecution) from the Jews, or even from the Gentiles, who now bore more easily with the antiquity [antiquated usages] of the Jews, than with the supernatural novelty [new doctrine and rule] of the Christian faith.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. To make a fair show (εὐπροσωπῆσαι)

N.T.o. oClass. olxx.

In the flesh (ἐν σαρκί)

Qualifying the verb to make a fair show. The whole phrase is well explained by Ellicott: "To wear a specious exterior in the earthly, unspiritual element in which they move." Ἐν σρακί is not equals among men, nor being carnal, nor as regards fleshly things. The desire to make a good appearance irrespective of inward truth and righteousness, is prompted by the unrenewed, fleshly nature, and makes its fair showing in that sphere.

They constrain (οὗτοι ἀναγκάζουσιν)

Neither A.V. nor Rev. gives the strong, definitive force of οὗτοι. It is these - the Judaising emissaries, that constrain, etc. Comp. Galatians 3:7.

Only lest (μόνον ἵνα - μὴ)

Or, that they may not. Having no other object, or only from the motive that, etc.

For the cross (τῷ σταυρῷ)

Better, by reason of the cross. Because of preaching a crucified Messiah. See on Galatians 5:11. The Judaisers attempted to cover with the law - the requirement of circumcision - the "offense" of a crucified Messiah.

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