Galatians 6:16
And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and on the Israel of God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) According to this rule.—The word for “rule” is the same that afterwards received a special application in the phrase, “Canon of Scripture.” It meant originally a carpenter’s rule, or the line that a carpenter works by—hence, a rule or standard; and, from that, the list of books coming up to a certain standard—not (as might be thought) which themselves supplied a standard.

The Apostle confines his benediction to those who hold the fundamental truths of Christianity—i.e., here more especially, the doctrine of justification by faith and the spiritual view of Christianity connected with it, as opposed to the merely external and mechanical system of the Judaisers.

And upon the Israel of God.—The benediction is addressed, not to two distinct sets of persons (“those who walk by this rule” and “the Israel of God”), but to the same set of persons described in different ways. “And” is therefore equivalent to “namely:” Yea, upon the Israel of God. By the “Israel of God” is here meant the “spiritual Israel;” not converts from Judaism alone, but all who prove their real affinity to Abraham by a faith like Abraham’s. (Comp. Galatians 3:7-9; Galatians 3:14; Galatians 3:29; Romans 4:11-12; Romans 9:6-8.)

1 Corinthians

FORMS VERSUS CHARACTER

1 Corinthians 7:19
. - Galatians 5:6. - Galatians 6:16.

The great controversy which embittered so much of Paul’s life, and marred so much of his activity, turned upon the question whether a heathen man could come into the Church simply by the door of faith, or whether he must also go through the gate of circumcision. We all know how Paul answered the question. Time, which settles all controversies, has settled that one so thoroughly that it is impossible to revive any kind of interest in it; and it may seem to be a pure waste of time to talk about it. But the principles that fought then are eternal, though the forms in which they manifest themselves vary with every varying age.

The Ritualist-using that word in its broadest sense-on the one hand, and the Puritan on the other, represent permanent tendencies of human nature; and we find to-day the old foes with new faces. These three passages, which I have read, are Paul’s deliverance on the question of the comparative value of external rites and spiritual character. They are remarkable both for the identity in the former part of each and for the variety in the latter. In all the three cases he affirms, almost in the same language, that ‘circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing,’ that the Ritualist’s rite and the Puritan’s protest are equally insignificant in comparison with higher things. And then he varies the statement of what the higher things are, in a very remarkable and instructive fashion. The ‘keeping of the commandments of God,’ says one of the texts, is the all-important matter. Then, as it were, he pierces deeper, and in another of the texts {I take the liberty of varying their order} pronounces that ‘a new creature’ is the all-important thing. And then he pierces still deeper to the bottom of all, in the third text, and says the all-important thing is ‘faith which worketh by love.’

I think I shall best bring out the force of these words by dealing first with that emphatic threefold proclamation of the nullity of all externalism; and then with the singular variations in the triple statement of what is essential, viz. spiritual conduct and character.

I. First, the emphatic proclamation of the nullity of outward rites.

‘Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing,’ say two texts. ‘Circumcision availeth nothing, and uncircumcision availeth nothing,’ says the other. It neither is anything nor does anything. Did Paul say that because circumcision was a Jewish rite? No. As I believe, he said it because it was a rite; and because he had learned that the one thing needful was spiritual character, and that no external ceremonial of any sort could produce that. I think we are perfectly warranted in taking this principle of my text, and in extending it beyond the limits of the Jewish rite about which Paul was speaking. For if you remember, he speaks about baptism, in the first chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, in a precisely similar tone and for precisely the same reason, when he says, in effect, ‘I baptized Crispus and Gaius and the household of Stephanas, and I think these are all. I am not quite sure. I do not keep any kind of record of such things; God did not send me to baptize, He sent me to preach the Gospel.’

The thing that produced the spiritual result was not the rite, but the truth, and therefore he felt that his function was to preach the truth and leave the rite to be administered by others. Therefore we can extend the principle here to all externalisms of worship, in all forms, in all churches, and say that in comparison with the essentials of an inward Christianity they are nothing and they do nothing.

They have their value. As long as we are here on earth, living in the flesh, we must have outward forms and symbolical rites. It is in Heaven that the seer ‘saw no temple.’ Our sense-bound nature requires, and thankfully avails itself of, the help of external rites and ceremonials to lift us up towards the Object of our devotion. A man prays all the better if he bow his head, shut his eyes, and bend his knees. Forms do help us to the realisation of the realities, and the truths which they express and embody. Music may waft our souls to the heavens, and pictures may stir deep thoughts. That is the simple principle on which the value of all external aids to devotion depends. They may be helps towards the appreciation of divine truth, and to the suffusing of the heart with devout emotions which may lead to building up a holy character.

There is a worth, therefore-an auxiliary and subordinate worth-in these things, and in that respect they are not nothing, nor do they ‘avail nothing.’ But then all external rites tend to usurp more than belongs to them, and in our weakness we are apt to cleave to them, and instead of using them as means to lift us higher, to stay in them, and as a great many of us do, to mistake the mere gratification of taste and the excitement of the sensibilities for worship. A bit of stained glass may be glowing with angel-forms and pictured saints, but it always keeps some of the light out, and it always hinders us from seeing through it. And all external worship and form have so strong a tendency to usurp more than belongs to them, and to drag us down to their own level, even whilst we think that we are praying, that I believe the wisest man will try to pare down the externals of his worship to the lowest possible point. If there be as much body as will keep a soul in, as much form as will embody the spirit, that is all that we want. What is more is dangerous.

All form in worship is like fire, it is a good servant but it is a bad master, and it needs to be kept very rigidly in subordination, or else the spirituality of Christian worship vanishes before men know; and they are left with their dead forms which are only evils-crutches that make people limp by the very act of using them.

Now, my dear friends, when that has happened, when men begin to say, as the people in Paul’s time were saying about circumcision, and as people are saying in this day about Christian rites, that they are necessary, then it is needful to take up Paul’s ground and to say, ‘No! they are nothing!’ They are useful in a certain place, but if you make them obligatory, if you make them essential, if you say that grace is miraculously conveyed through them, then it is needful that we should raise a strong note of protestation, and declare their absolute nullity for the highest purpose, that of making that spiritual character which alone is essential.

And I believe that this strange recrudescence-to use a modern word-of ceremonialism and aesthetic worship which we see all round about us, not only in the ranks of the Episcopal Church, but amongst Nonconformists, who are sighing for a less bare service, and here and there are turning their chapels into concert-rooms, and instead of preaching the Gospel are having ‘Services of Song’ and the like-that all this makes it as needful to-day as ever it was to say to men: ‘Forms are not worship. Rites may crush the spirit. Men may yield to the sensuous impressions which they produce, and be lapped in an atmosphere of aesthetic emotion, without any real devotion.’

Such externals are only worth anything if they make us grasp more firmly with our understandings and feel more profoundly with our hearts, the great truths of the Gospel. If they do that, they help; if they are not doing that, they hinder, and are to be fought against. And so we have again to proclaim to-day, as Paul did, ‘Circumcision is nothing,’ ‘but the keeping of the commandments of God.’

Then notice with what remarkable fairness and boldness and breadth the Apostle here adds that other clause: ‘and uncircumcision is nothing.’ It is a very hard thing for a man whose life has been spent in fighting against an error, not to exaggerate the value of his protest. It is a very hard thing for a man who has been delivered from the dependence upon forms, not to fancy that his formlessness is what the other people think that their forms are. The Puritan who does not believe that a man can be a good man because he is a Ritualist or a Roman Catholic, is committing the very same error as the Ritualist or the Roman Catholic who does not believe that the Puritan can be a Christian unless he has been ‘christened.’ The two people are exactly the same, only the one has hold of the stick at one end, and the other at the other. There may be as much idolatry in superstitious reliance upon the bare worship as in the advocacy of the ornate; and many a Nonconformist who fancies that he has ‘never bowed the knee to Baal’ is as true an idol-worshipper in his superstitious abhorrence of the ritualism that he sees in other communities, as are the men who trust in it the most.

It is a large attainment in Christian character to be able to say with Paul, ‘Circumcision is nothing, and my own favourite point of uncircumcision is nothing either. Neither the one side nor the other touches the essentials.’

II. Now let us look at the threefold variety of the designation of these essentials here.

In our first text from the Epistle to the Corinthians we read, ‘Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.’ If we finished the sentence it would be, ‘but the keeping of the commandments of God is everything.’

And by that ‘keeping the commandments,’ of course, the Apostle does not mean merely external obedience. He means something far deeper than that, which I put into this plain word, that the one essential of a Christian life is the conformity of the will with God’s-not the external obedience merely, but the entire surrender and the submission of my will to the will of my Father in Heaven. That is the all-important thing; that is what God wants; that is the end of all rites and ceremonies; that is the end of all revelation and of all utterances of the divine heart. The Bible, Christ’s mission, His passion and death, the gift of His Divine Spirit, and every part of the divine dealings in providence, all converge upon this one aim and goal. For this purpose the Father worketh hitherto, and Christ works, that man’s will may yield and bow itself wholly and happily and lovingly to the great infinite will of the Father in heaven.

Brethren! that is the perfection of a man’s nature, when his will fits on to God’s like one of Euclid’s triangles superimposed upon another, and line for line coincides. When his will allows a free passage to the will of God, without resistance or deflection, as light travels through transparent glass; when his will responds to the touch of God’s finger upon the keys, like the telegraphic needle to the operator’s hand, then man has attained all that God and religion can do for him, all that his nature is capable of; and far beneath his feet may be the ladders of ceremonies and forms and outward acts, by which he climbed to that serene and blessed height, ‘Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of God’s commandments is everything.’

That submission of will is the sum and the test of your Christianity. Your Christianity does not consist only in a mere something which you call faith in Jesus Christ. It does not consist in emotions, however deep and blessed and genuine they may be. It does not consist in the acceptance of a creed. All these are means to an end. They are meant to drive the wheel of life, to build up character, to make your deepest wish to be, ‘Father! not my will, but Thine, be done.’ In the measure in which that is your heart’s desire, and not one hair’s-breadth further, have you a right to call yourself a Christian.

But, then, I can fancy a man saying: ‘It is all very well to talk about bowing the will in this fashion; how can I do that?’ Well, let us take our second text-the third in the order of their occurrence-’For neither circumcision is anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.’ That is to say, if we are ever to keep the will of God we must be made over again. Ay! we must! Our own consciences tell us that; the history of all the efforts that ever we have made-and I suppose all of us have made some now and then, more or less earnest and more or less persistent-tells us that there needs to be a stronger hand than ours to come into the fight if it is ever to be won by us. There is nothing more heartless and more impotent than to preach, ‘Bow your wills to God, and then you will be happy; bow your wills to God, and then you will be good.’ If that is all the preacher has to say, his powerless words will but provoke the answer, ‘We cannot. Tell the leopard to change his spots, or the Ethiopian his skin, as soon as tell a man to reduce this revolted kingdom within him to obedience, and to bow his will to the will of God. We cannot do it.’ But, brethren, in that word, ‘a new creature,’ lies a promise from God; for a creature implies a creator. ‘It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves.’ The very heart of what Christ has to offer us is the gift of His own life to dwell in our hearts, and by its mighty energy to make us free from the law of sin and death which binds our wills. We may have our spirits moulded into His likeness, and new tastes, and new desires, and new capacities infused into us, so as that we shall not be left with our own poor powers to try and force ourselves into obedience to God’s will, but that submission and holiness and love that keeps the commandments of God, will spring up in our renewed spirits as their natural product and growth. Oh! you men and women who have been honestly trying, half your lifetime, to make yourselves what you know God wants you to be, and who are obliged to confess that you have failed, hearken to the message: ‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things are passed away.’ The one thing needful is keeping the commandments of God, and the only way by which we can keep the commandments of God is that we should be formed again into the likeness of Him of whom alone it is true that ‘He did always the things that pleased’ God.

And so we come to the last of these great texts: ‘In Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.’ That is to say, if we are to be made over again, we must have faith in Christ Jesus. We have got to the root now, so far as we are concerned. We must keep the commandments of God; if we are to keep the commandments we must be made over again, and if our hearts ask how can we receive that new creating power into our lives, the answer is, by ‘faith which worketh by love.’

Paul did not believe that external rites could make men partakers of a new nature, but he believed that if a man would trust in Jesus Christ, the life of that Christ would flow into his opened heart, and a new spirit and nature would be born in him. And, therefore, his triple requirements come all down to this one, so far as we are concerned, as the beginning and the condition of the other two. ‘Neither circumcision does anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love,’ does everything. He that trusts Christ opens his heart to Christ, who comes with His new-creating Spirit, and makes us willing in the day of His power to keep His commandments.

But faith leads us to obedience in yet another fashion, than this opening of the door of the heart for the entrance of the new-creating Spirit. It leads to it in the manner which is expressed by the words of our text, ‘worketh by love.’ Faith shows itself living, because it leads us to love, and through love it produces its effects upon conduct.

Two things are implied in this designation of faith. If you trust Christ you will love Him. That is plain enough. And you will not love Him unless you trust Him. Though it lies wide of my present purpose, let us take this lesson in passing. You cannot work yourself up into a spasm or paroxysm of religious emotion and love by resolution or by effort. All that you can do is to go and look at the Master and get near Him, and that will warm you up. You can love if you trust. Your trust will make you love; unless you trust you will never love Him.

The second thing implied is, that if you love you will obey. That is plain enough. The keeping of the commandments will be easy where there is love in the heart. The will will bow where there is love in the heart. Love is the only fire that is hot enough to melt the iron obstinacy of a creature’s will. The will cannot be driven. Strike it with violence and it stiffens; touch it gently and it yields. If you try to put an iron collar upon the will, like the demoniac in the Gospels, the touch of the apparent restraint drives it into fury, and it breaks the bands asunder. Fasten it with the silken leash of love, and a ‘little child’ can lead it. So faith works by love, because whom we trust we shall love, and whom we love we shall obey.

Therefore we have got to the root now, and nothing is needful but an operative faith, out of which will come all the blessed possession of a transforming Spirit, and all sublimities and noblenesses of an obedient and submissive will.

My brother! Paul and James shake hands here. There is a ‘faith’ so called, which does not work. It is dead! Let me beseech you, none of you to rely upon what you choose to call your faith in Jesus Christ, but examine it. Does it do anything? Does it help you to be like Him? Does it open your hearts for His Spirit to come in? Does it fill them with love to that Master, a love which proves itself by obedience? Plain questions, questions that any man can answer; questions that go to the root of the whole matter. If your faith does that, it is genuine; if it does not, it is not.

And do not trust either to forms, or to your freedom from forms. They will not save your souls, they will not make you more Christ-like. They will not help you to pardon, purity, holiness, blessedness. In these respects neither if we have them are we the better, nor if we have them not are we the worse. If you are trusting to Christ, and by that faith are having your hearts moulded and made over again into all holy obedience, then you have all that you need. Unless you have, though you partook of all Christian rites, though you believed all Christian truth, though you fought against superstitious reliance on forms, you have not the one thing needful, for ‘in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.’6:16-18 A new creation to the image of Christ, as showing faith in him, is the greatest distinction between one man and another, and a blessing is declared on all who walk according to this rule. The blessings are, peace and mercy. Peace with God and our conscience, and all the comforts of this life, as far as they are needful. And mercy, an interest in the free love and favour of God in Christ, the spring and fountain of all other blessings. The written word of God is the rule we are to go by, both in its doctrines and precepts. May his grace ever be with our spirit, to sanctify, quicken, and cheer us, and may we always be ready to maintain the honour of that which is indeed our life. The apostle had in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus, the scars of wounds from persecuting enemies, for his cleaving to Christ, and the doctrine of the gospel. The apostle calls the Galatians his brethren, therein he shows his humility and his tender affection for them; and he takes his leave with a very serious prayer, that they might enjoy the favour of Christ Jesus, both in its effects and in its evidences. We need desire no more to make us happy than the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle does not pray that the law of Moses, or the righteousness of works, but that the grace of Christ, might be with them; that it might be in their hearts and with their spirits, quickening, comforting, and strengthening them: to all which he sets his Amen; signifying his desire that so it might be, and his faith that so it would be.And as many as walk - As many as live, for so the word walk is used in the Scriptures. According to this rule. Greek: "This canon"; see the word explained in the notes at 2 Corinthians 10:13.

Peace be on them - See the note at Romans 15:33.

And upon the Israel of God - The true church of God; all who are his true worshippers; see the note at Romans 2:28-29; Romans 9:6, note.

16. as many—contrasting with the "as many," Ga 6:12.

rule—literally, a straight rule, to detect crookedness; so a rule of life.

peace—from God (Eph 2:14-17; 6:23).

mercy—(Ro 15:9).

Israel of God—not the Israel after the flesh, among whom those teachers wish to enrol you; but the spiritual seed of Abraham by faith (Ga 3:9, 29; Ro 2:28, 29; Php 3:3).

And as many as walk according to this rule; he either meaneth the rule of Scripture, the whole word of God; or the doctrine which he had taught them throughout this Epistle, or what he had said in the words immediately going before, where the apostle had given them this rule, not to regard either circumcision or uncircumcision, or any thing in the flesh, but only the change of their hearts. To these he either prophesieth

peace and mercy, or he prayeth peace and mercy for them; under which large terms he comprehendeth all good things, whether internal or external.

Upon the Israel of God; upon the true Israelites, whom he calleth the Israel of God; hereby intimating and confirming the truth of what he had said, Romans 2:28,29, and what our Saviour had said of Nathanael, John 1:47, calling him an Israelite indeed, because in him was no guile; and establishing a distinction between such as were so really, and those who were only Israelites in name, because descended from Jacob, to whom God gave the name of Israel. Hereby also checking the vanity of the Jews, who gloried in the name of Israelites, and thought there could no water come out of the fountains of Israel which God would cast away. The apostle doth not promise, or prophesy, mercy and peace to all Israelites, but only to the Israel of God; that is, to believers, that received and embraced Jesus Christ offered in the gospel. And as many as walk according to this rule,.... Or canon; meaning not the canon of the Scriptures in general, which is the perfect rule, and only standard of faith and practice; according to which we are to walk, believe, and act; but either the doctrine of justification by the righteousness of Christ, the subject of this epistle, the truth the apostle had been explaining, vindicating, and confirming; and which to depart from, is going out of the way of truth; and an abiding by it, is walking in it; and is a good rule and standard, by which to distinguish between truth and error; for whatever is contrary to that article of faith cannot be true: or else the rule delivered in the preceding verse, declaring circumcision and uncircumcision to be of no avail in salvation, but a new creature; and to walk according to this rule, is to renounce all trust in, and dependence upon any outward things; to believe alone in Christ, for righteousness and life; to live by faith upon him, and to walk in newness of life, under the influences of his Spirit and grace:

peace be on them, and mercy. This is the apostle's godly wish, unfeigned desire, and hearty prayer for all such persons, be they who they will; Jews or Gentiles, circumcised or uncircumcised: by peace he means, a view of their peace with God, made by the blood of Christ; peace in their own consciences, which passes all understanding, and arises from a comfortable sense of justification by the righteousness of Christ, of pardon by his blood, and atonement by his sacrifice; and which is enjoyed in a way of believing; and also peace with one another, among themselves as brethren, which is a very desirable blessing: in short, it includes all prosperity and happiness, inward and outward, temporal, spiritual, and eternal: and by "mercy", he designs the love and grace of God, to sinful miserable creatures in themselves, which is the spring and fountain of all peace and prosperity; and which is displayed in the covenant of grace, and all the blessings of it; in the mission and incarnation of Christ, and redemption by him; in regeneration, forgiveness of sin, and complete salvation; and intends a fresh discovery, manifestation, and application of the mercy of God to his children; who often stand in need thereof, being distressed with the guilt of sin, or are under desertions or afflictive providences, at which time to have mercy showed them, is exceeding suitable and agreeable: when the apostle wishes these to be "on" them, it signifies that these blessings come from above, as every good gift does; that they descend as a cloud, and rest upon them, and abide with them, refreshing, comforting, and protecting them: he adds,

and upon the Israel of God; which is a further description of the persons, for whom he prays for these blessings; and is not to be understood by way of distinction from them, but as an amplification of their character; and as pointing out the Israel, by way of emphasis, the Israel, or Israelites indeed, the spiritual Israel, as distinct from Israel according to the flesh; see 1 Corinthians 10:18. The "Israel of God", or as the Arabic version reads it, "Israel the propriety of God"; which he has a right unto, and a claim upon; who are chosen by him, Israel his elect; who are redeemed by him, out of every kindred, tongue, people, and nation; who are called by his grace, and are styled Israel his called; who are justified in his Son, and by his righteousness; and for whose sake he is exalted as a Prince and a Saviour, to give them repentance and remission of sin; and who are, or will be saved by him, with an everlasting salvation; and is a name that includes all God's elect, whether Jews or Gentiles: though it may have a particular respect to such of the Israelites, or Jews, God had foreknown and reserved for himself; and who believed in Christ, and walked as new creatures, without confidence in the flesh. The Jews themselves own, that strangers, or proselytes, shall be called by the name of Israel; so they (b) explain Isaiah 44:5, latter part.

(b) Jarchi & Abarbinel in Isaiah 44.5.

And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the {n} Israel of God.

(n) Upon the true Israel, whose praise is from God and not from men; Ro 2:29.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Galatians 6:16. The heart, full of the great truth in Galatians 6:15, has now a wish of blessing for all who follow it in their conduct. The simple and, carrying on the train of thought and linking it with Galatians 6:15, serves to express this wish. A reference to Galatians 6:14, so as to connect our verse with the wish therein contained (Hofmann), is not required by καί, and is forbidden by the importance of Galatians 6:15, which would in that case have to be reduced to a mere parenthetical insertion.

The emphasis lies not on τούτῳ, but on τῷ κανόνι (comp. on 1 Corinthians 15:19); for it is the very canonical character of the saying in Galatians 6:15 which has to be brought out: “who shall walk according to the guiding line, which is herein given.” We are prohibited from assigning to κανών the non-literal meaning rule, maxim (as is usually done; see Schott in loc.), by the figurative στοιχήσουσιν, which requires the literal meaning guiding line (2 Corinthians 10:13 ff.), that is, in this passage, a line defining the direction of the way; as such, the maxim expressed in Galatians 6:15 is placed before them. As to στοιχεῖν, comp. on Galatians 5:25. The anacoluthic nominative ὅσοι κ.τ.λ. has rhetorical emphasis, directing the whole attention of the readers first to the subject in itself which is under discussion. Comp. on Matthew 7:24; Matthew 10:14; John 1:12; Acts 7:40. The future στοιχήσ. (comp. Galatians 5:10) applies to the time of receiving the letter (comp. τοῦ λοιποῦ, Galatians 6:17). Paul hopes that the letter will have a converting and strengthening effect upon many readers, but makes the question, who should be warranted in applying to himself the concluding blessing, depend on the result.

εἰρήνη ἐπʼ αὐτοὺς καὶ ἔλεος] sc. εἴη,[270] welfare (שלום; see on Ephesians 6:23; John 14:27) on them, and mercy (Tittm. Synon. p. 69 f). Comp. 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; Judges 1:2; 2 John 1:3, in which passages ἜΛΕΟς stands first. Here it follows after, not because Paul intended at first to write ΕἸΡΉΝΗ only (so, arbitrarily, Olshausen), nor because in ἜΛΕΟς he had specially in view the day of judgment (Hofmann), which indeed is expressly added in 2 Timothy 1:18, but because he has thought of the effect produced before the producing cause. What welfare it is that Paul wishes—namely, all Messianic welfare—is obvious of itself. The peace of reconciliation forms a part of it. ἜΛΕΟς is, moreover, to be considered as neuter, because Paul throughout so uses it (even in Titus 3:5 it is neuter, according to decisive testimony); although the neuter form, which very often occurs in the LXX., is but very rarely found in classical authors. See Dindorf, ad Diod. iii. 18; Kühner, I. p. 396, c. ed. 2.

In ἐπʼ αὐτούς is implied the idea that welfare and mercy come down upon them from heaven. Comp. Luke 2:25; Luke 2:40; Luke 4:18; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Mark 1:10; Acts 19:6, et al.

καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰσραὴλ τοῦ Θεοῦ] That this is a reminiscence of Psalm 125:5; Psalm 128:6 (Theophylact, Erasmus, and others; also Rückert, Schott, de Wette, Reiche), could only be assumed without dealing arbitrarily, if, instead of καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰσρ. τοῦ Θεοῦ, Paul had written: εἰρήνη ἑπὶ τὸν Ἰσραήλ! which, after the instruction given by him in Galatians 4:21 ff., he might have written without any danger of misunderstanding. Still less can the expression be referred to Psalm 73:1; for which purpose Hofmann employs an impossible interpretation of the Hebrew text of the passage. The Israel of God, that is, as contrasted with Jacob’s bodily descendants as such (comp. Romans 9:6; 1 Corinthians 10:18; Php 3:3), the Israelites who belong to God as His own, and therefore form the real people of God ideally viewed (comp. also John 1:48), are at any rate the true Christians.[271] But according as καί is taken either as explanatory or as conjunctive, we may understand either the true Christians in general, Jewish and Gentile Christians (Chrysostom, Theodoret, Luther, Calvin, Pareus, Cornelius a Lapide, Calovius, Baumgarten, Koppe, Rosenmüller, Borger, Winer, Paulus, Olshausen, Baumgarten-Crusius, Wieseler, and others), or the truly converted Jews (Ambrosiaster, Beza, Grotius, Estius, Schoettgen, Bengel, Rückert, Matthies, Schott, de Wette, Ewald, Reithmayr, and others; Usteri does not decide). If we adopt the latter interpretation, we must either (with Grotius, Schott, Bengel, Ewald) refer the foregoing ὅσοι and ΑὐΤΟΎς to the Gentile Christians,—a view which is, however, decisively at variance with the universal ὍΣΟΙ, and with the description excluding any national reference, Τῷ ΚΑΝΌΝΙ ΤΟΎΤῼ ΣΤΟΙΧ.—or (with Rückert, Matthies, de Wette, Reithmayr, and others) we must explain the train of thought as follows: “Salvation be upon all true Christians, and more especially (to mention these in particular; see on Mark 1:5; Mark 16:7) on all true Jewish Christians!” But however near Paul’s fellow-countrymen were to his heart (Romans 9:1), he not only had no ground in the context for bringing them forward here so specially; but any such distinction would even be quite improperly introduced—especially in the deeply-impassioned close of the letter—in presence of churches which consisted principally of Gentile Christians and had been involved by Jewish interference in violent controversies. And even apart from this, no reader to whom the teaching of the apostle as to the true Israelites was familiar (and see Galatians 3:7, Galatians 4:21 ff.) could think that τὸν Ἰσρ. τοῦ Θεοῦ referred to Jewish Christians only; this would be opposed to the specific conception of Paul on this point. We must adhere, therefore, to the explicative view of καί as the correct one (1 Corinthians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 8:12Galatians 6:16. κανόνι. Men need a rule to guide their lives as the surveyor or the carpenter for the right adjustment of his work. This rule was supplied to the Jew by the Law in a code of morals, but the Spirit quickens in Christians a new life whereby the conscience is enlightened to discern good and evil for the regulation of their lives.—καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰσραὴλ: yea upon the Israel of God. καί is not properly copulative here, but intensive. Those who walk by the rule of the Spirit are declared to be indeed the true Israel of God, not the Jews who have the name of Israel, but are really only children of Abraham after the flesh.16. as many as walk] See note on ch. Galatians 5:25. Some commentators attach to this verb a different sense, ‘as many as conform to this rule’. But the A.V. gives what is probably a correct rendering. The reading ‘shall walk’, adopted by R.V. is on the whole preferable on MSS. authority. At the time when the Epistle was written believers were comparatively few in number, but the blessing was a prophecy extending to all who in the long series of centuries, even to the end of the dispensation, should walk, that is, live by the same rule.

this rule] This word originally meant a carpenter’s rod or rule for guiding and testing his work, or the tongue of a balance. Then, any standard by which to regulate procedure or conduct. The transition to the sense of a model or pattern was not difficult. It is of frequent occurrence in different applications in ecclesiastical literature. See Article ‘Canon’ in Dict. of Christian Antiquities, and Westcott On the Canon, App. A.

Here ‘this rule’ is the principle of justification through faith in the Atoning Blood, and the renewal of man’s nature by the Holy Ghost. ‘As many as walk by it’—whether circumcised or not—in every age, in every clime—male or female—slave or free, without distinction of visible Church or sect. Surely this must be that ‘great multitude which no man can number’, of whom it is written ‘they washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb’, Revelation 7:13.

peace be on them, and mercy] This is probably a prayer, ‘May peace be on them’; though the original allows us to render, ‘Peace rests on them’. Peace in the soul, because of reconciliation with God. Peace with man through Him Who is ‘our peace’. But mercy also, as needed by sinners.

and upon the Israel of God] Are ‘the Israel of God’ distinct from those who walk according to the Apostle’s rule, or are we to regard the particle ‘and’ as epexegetical, and equivalent to ‘yea, upon &c.’? The answer will depend on the exact meaning which is attached to the expression, ‘the Israel of God’. If it means those ‘who are not of the circumcision only, but who walk in the steps’ of Abraham’s faith, i.e. Jews who have been really converted to Christianity, we must suppose St Paul to have had Gentile converted in his mind in the preceding verses. It seems better, however, to regard the expression as intended to sum up the ‘as many as’ in a phrase which is closely identified with the whole argument of the Epistle, ‘If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise’. These are ‘the Israel of God’, whether Jews or Gentiles, for ‘the Jew is he who is one inwardly in the spirit, not in the letter’. Romans 2:29. So that the blessing is invoked on all who walk according to the rule enunciated, and so in fact on the true Israel, not Israel after the flesh, but the Israel of the promise and of God.Galatians 6:16. Κανόνι, rule) This refers chiefly to teachers.—εἰρήνη, peace) May it be, and it shall be. On peace, comp. Ephesians 2:14-17.—ἐπʼ αὐτοὺς, on them) In antithesis to the uncircumcision [those uncircumcised, viz. the unbelieving Gentiles].—καὶ ἔλεος, and mercy) Romans 15:9.—καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰσραὴλ τοῦ Θεοῦ, and on the Israel of God) In antithesis to the circumcision [the Jews]. The Israel of God are believers of the circumcision, or Jewish nation [Php 3:3]. The meaning of the apostle, which is by no means Jewish, has beautifully seized on an expression inconsistent with the idiom of the people; for the Hebrews do not say, Israel of God; nor do they even use the proper name in the construct state.[67]

[67] i.e. They do not put two proper names together in such a construction as “the Israel of God.”—ED.Verse 16. - And as many as walk according to this rule (καὶ ὅσοι τῷ κανόνι τούτῳ στοιχήσουσιν); and as many as shall be walking by this rule. The word κανών, properly a workman's rule, according to Liddell and Scott, but according to Bishop Lightfoot, who, refers to Dr. Westcott, 'On the Canon,' App. A, the carpenter's or surveyor's line by which a direction is taken, is used in 2 Corinthians 10:13, 15, 16 of the measurements and delimitation of districts; here, with reference apparently to a surveyor's measuring-line, as marking out a path or road. So that τῷ κανόνι τούτῳ στοιχεῖν means "walking on orderly" (see note on στοιχεῖν, Galatians 5:25) in the line marked out by what has now been said. The future tense appears to point forward to what should be the case among the Galatians when the letter now going to them should have had time to do its work. But what in the preceding context does the apostle refer to as supplying "this rule"? Many think that he points to the aphorism in ver. 15, affirming the utter indifferency of circumcision or uncircumcision, and the all-importance of a "new creature;" in which case the stress would lie mainly upon the latter point, the "new all-importance of a creature," which was of perpetual interest, rather than on the indiffereney of circumcision which in itself was a matter of but passing concern. It may be fairly questioned, however, whether the apostle does not rather point to the description which in ver. 14 he has given of the manner in which he himself regarded the cross of Christ, as a pattern to the Galatian Churchmen of the manner in which they also should be affected by it. It was customary with the apostle to present himself to his converts as the model to which they should conform themselves. Thus he commends the Thessalonians for that on their conversion they proved themselves imitators of him (1 Thessalonians 1:6). When discoursing to the Corinthians of his manifold afflictions and of his self-humbling, men-loving demeanour under them all, he besought them to be imitators of him (1 Corinthians 4:9-16), which entreaty he renews with a similar reference in 1 Corinthians 9:1. So he exhorts the Philippians to unite with one another in imitating him, and to fix their regards upon such as walked as they had him and those with him for a pattern (Philippians 3:17), and again repeats to them (Philippians 4:9), "Those things which ye, moreover, learned, and received, and heard, and saw in me, do," - all which clauses refer to his own character and doings as seen by themselves or as reported to them by others (see Alford, in loc.). This purpose, of propounding his sentiments and course of action as a model for the guidance of his converts, no doubt underlies very many of those passages in which he so frankly and (we might but for this be tempted to think) so sell:approvingly dilates upon them. In those days we must remember there was no "Canon "of New Testament Scripture which might serve for the guidance of the newly gained converts from heathenism; for practical guidance in the Christian life, besides the Old Testament Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15-17), they had, perforce, to be referred partly to their own moral sense, partly to the inward teachings of the Holy Spirit, and partly, and this to a very important extent, to the living examples of eminently Spirit-taught men. This purpose, of propounding himself as an example, evidently underlay the writing of ver. 14; and it is the consciousness that it was so that now leads him to use the phrase, "by this rule," in reference, as seems most probable, to that very description of his own life. It is noticeable that, after having exhorted the Philippians to do all the things which they had seen and known him to do, he adds (Philippians 4:9). "And the God of peace shall be with you;" just as he here says, "As many as shall be walking orderly by this rule, peace upon them, and mercy!" We are now brought into a position to see clearly the force of the conjunction "and," with which he introduces this verse. It connects it closely with ver. 14. "I myself glory in the cross of Christ, and to that cross have sacrificed all I held dear; and for all that shall be found walking in that same path - upon them shall rest my hearty sympathy and my pastoral benediction." It is further deserving of notice that in Philippians 3, when presenting himself to the Philippians as their examplar, the apostle speaks of "many" - no doubt with inclusive reference to those Judaizing advocates of circumcision whose circumcision he scornfully styles a concision - as being "the enemies of the cross of Christ." This was written some years after the Epistle to the Galatians; but it shows that it was a common experience with the apostle to find among the Gentile Churches two classes in particular of Christians: one, consisting of his own adherents and followers in the spirit and life of the gospel; another, of those who (either because as born Jews or Gentile Judaizers, they eschewed the pollution of the cross and its aspect towards the ceremonial Law, or because they were Gentiles, ashamed before their countrymen of trusting in a Jew who had been crucified), were fain to the utmost of their power to thrust the crucifixion of Christ out of sight - "the enemies of the cross of Christ?" Peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God (εἰρήνη ἐπ αὐτούς καὶ ἔλεος καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰσραὴλ τοῦ Θεοῦ). The suppletion of "be" in the Authorized Version, in preference to "shall be" or "is," is borne out by the fact that the language of benediction, both in the greeting at the beginning of the Epistles and in their close, ordinarily omits the copula verb, which in such cases must be what is here supplied. We may compare in particular Ephesians 6:24, "Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in uncorruptness," not only as similar in construction, requiring the like suppletion of "be," but also as another instance in which the apostle pronounces his pastoral benediction with a certain limitation, specifying those only who sincerely love Jesus Christ. The limitation in these two cases only implied is in 1 Corinthians 16:22 converted into a distinctly expressed anathema upon those who do not love Christ. The present passage makes the implied limitation without even that measure of stern precision which would have been marked by his writing ἐπὶ τούτους ("upon these") instead of ἐπ αὐτούς ("upon them"). It seems as if he would fain allure back to the gospel blessing those of his readers who might feel themselves as not now coming within its range. Perhaps in the addition of the words, "and mercy," we may detect a sympathizing sense in the mind of the apostle of the mental suffering, which those in Galatia sincerely devoted to the crucified Christ had and would still have to encounter, in contending for the truth of the gospel against fellow Churchmen of their own. They would probably be no mere hard-minded controversialists, but humble, loving believers, to whom the mercy of God would be very dear. The apostle adds it to his greeting only in writing to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2), distinguished apparently for the affectionateness and feminine-heartedness of his character. In Titus 1:4 the addition is not genuine. The words, "and upon the Israel of God," seem to be an echo of the "peace upon Israel (εἰρήνη ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰσραήλ)," which, in the Septuagint, closes the hundred and twenty-fifth and hundred and twenty-eighth psalms. The addition of the words, "of God," seems intended pointedly to distinguish the "Israel" which the apostle has m view from that which boasted itself as being Israel while it was not, and also from the false brethren (ψευδαδελφοί, Galatians 2:4) in the Christian Church, who were for linking themselves with the false Israel. The addition is not merely honorific, as in the expression, "the Church of God" (1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1; 10:32; 11:22; 15:9), but distinctive as well - that which alone God views and loves as "Israel" - to wit, the entire body of real believers in Christ, who, as portrayed in this Epistle, are "children of promise after the fashion of Isaac" (Galatians 4:28), Abraham's seed and heirs of the promise" (Galatians 3:29), and the children of "the upper Jerusalem, which is our mother" (Galatians 4:26). Of that portion of the true Israel which dwelt in Galatia (see 1 Peter 1:1; 1 Peter 2:10), those who, like the apostle, consecrated themselves to Christ as crucified, were the guiding and characterizing element; and therefore his blessing shed upon these spreads itself also upon those connected with them. That the apostle is even here still regardful of others among the Galatians, who were themselves" shifting away from the gospel" and were drawing others away too (Galatians 1:6, 7), is shown by the next verse. Rule (κανόνι)

Po. See on 2 Corinthians 10:13, 2 Corinthians 10:16. Emphasis on rule not this.

Peace be on them (εἰρήνη ἐπ' αὐτοὺς)

The only instance of this formula in N.T. Commonly εἰρήνη with the simple dative, peace unto you, as John 20:19, John 20:21; Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; Galatians 1:3, etc. In the Catholic Epistles, with πληθυνθείη be multiplied. See 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:2; Jde 1:2.

Mercy (ἔλεος)

In the opening salutations of the Pastoral Epistles with grace and peace; also in 2 John 1:3. In Jde 1:2 with peace and love.

And upon the Israel of God

The καὶ and may be simply collective, in which case the Israel of God may be different from as many as walk, etc., and may mean truly converted Jews. Or the καὶ may be explicative, in which case the Israel of God will define and emphasize as many as, etc., and will mean the whole body of Christians, Jewish and Gentile. In other words, they who walk according to this rule form the true Israel of God. The explicative καὶ is at best doubtful here, and is rather forced, although clear instances of it may be found in 1 Corinthians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 15:38. It seems better to regard it as simply connective. Then ὅσοι will refer to the individual Christians, Jewish and Gentile, and Israel of God to the same Christians, regarded collectively, and forming the true messianic community.

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