For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)) He deceiveth himself.—A peculiar word, perhaps coined by St. Paul: puts himself under an hallucination; persuades himself of the existence of that which has no reality.Galatians 5:26. This is designed, evidently, to be another reason why we should be kind and tender to those who have erred. It is, that even those who are most confident may fall. They who feel secure, and think it impossible that they should sin, are not safe. They may be wholly deceived, and may be nothing, when they have the highest estimate of themselves. They may themselves fall into sin, and have need of all the sympathy and kindness of their brethren.
When he is nothing - When he has no strength, and no moral worth. When he is not such as he apprehends, but is lifted up with vain self-conceit.
He deceiveth himself - He understands not his own character. "The worst part of the fraud falls on his own head" - Doddridge. He does not accomplish what he expected to do; and instead of acquiring reputation from others, as he expected, he renders himself contemptible in their sight.
something—possessed of some spiritual pre-eminence, so as to be exempt from the frailty of other men.
when he is nothing—The Greek is subjective: "Being, if he would come to himself, and look on the real fact, nothing" [Alford] (Ga 6:2, 6; Ro 12:3; 1Co 8:2).
deceiveth himself—literally, "he mentally deceives himself." Compare Jas 1:26, "deceiveth his own heart."
nothing of what he thinks himself to be, he must needs
deceive himself in nourishing and entertaining such an opinion of himself. For the dependence of it upon what the apostle had said before, it is obvious. Pride, and men’s high opinions of themselves above what they ought, are the cause of their censoriousness and morosity in dealing with other offenders; which modesty would not suffer in them, if they apprehended themselves to be as weak, and as much exposed to temptations, as others are. It is pride and overweening opinions of ourselves, that make us despise or neglect others under their burdens, and so forget the law of Christ; the apostle therefore properly addeth this precept for humility and modesty to those former precepts.
when he is nothing: of himself; not even as a creature, but owes his being and preservation, and all the mercies of life, to another, even to God; has no grace nor gifts of himself, but what he has received, and can do no good thing, not think a good thought, or perform a good action, of himself, and much less of himself procure eternal life and salvation:
he deceiveth himself: and will find himself sadly mistaken, and wretchedly disappointed another day; or whoever thinks himself to be some famous and excellent person, to be something more, and better than others, of a more excellent nature, and of greater abilities, that he is free from sin, or at least holier than others, and not liable to fall as others, whom he looks upon with disdain and contempt, wanting that charity which the law, and new commandment of Christ, requires, when he is nothing but sin and vanity, he is destitute of the grace of God, he deceives himself and the truth is not in him. This the apostle says to depress pride, and a swelling conceit of themselves, and all uncharitable, rough, and severe usages of others. A saying like this the Jews have (y);
"whoever he is that is something, or thinks in himself that he is "something", it would be better for him if he had never been created.''For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Galatians 6:3. Argumentum e contrario for the preceding καὶ οὕτως ἀναπληρ. τ. ν. τ. Χρ.; in so far as the fulfilment to be given in such measure to this law is impossible to moral conceit.
For if any one thinks himself to be something, imagines himself possessed of peculiar moral worth, so that he conceives himself exalted above such a mutual bearing of burdens, while he is nothing, although he is in reality of no moral importance, he is, so far from fulfilling the law of Christ, involved in self-deception.
On εἶναί τι, and the opposite μηδὲν εἶναι, nullius momenti esse (comp. Arrian. Epict. ii. 24: δοκῶν μέν τι εἶναι, ὢ δʼ οὐδείς), comp. Galatians 2:6, and see on Acts 5:36; 2 Corinthians 12:11; Locella, ad Xen. Eph. p. 143. As to μή with the participle, see Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 301. If μηδὲν ὤν be attached to the apodosis (Michaelis, Baumgarten, Morus, Jatho, Hofmann), the effect is only to weaken the judgment which is expressed in it, because it would contain the fundamental statement (since he is nothing), in which the ἑαυτ. φρεναπ. is already obviously involved, and consequently, as the first portion of the affirmation in the apodosis, would anticipate the latter portion of it and take away its energetic emphasis. This is not the case, if the “being nothing” belongs to the antithetical delineation of conceited pretension in the protasis, where it is appropriate for the completeness of the case supposed. Moreover, μηδὲν ὤν is really applicable in the case of every one, Luke 17:10; Romans 3:23; 1 Corinthians 4:7, et al.
φρεναπατᾷ] denotes deception in the judgment, here in the moral judgment; the word is not preserved in any other Greek author. But comp. φρεναπάτης, Titus 1:10; Ignat. Trall. interpol. 6; Etym. M. 811. 3.Galatians 6:3-5. Any conceit of our own strength or goodness is a vain delusion, for we are nothing. Let no man compare his own with others’ work: this will only feed his vanity; but let each scrutinise his own work. Then, if he find there ground for rejoicing, it will be in the ability that has been given by God’s grace to such a one as he is: for each will have his own burden to bear of conscious guilt and shame.3. The connexion seems to be: Christ by precept and by example bade you bear one another’s burdens. To neglect this duty is to set up yourselves above Christ. He ‘humbled Himself’ for us. You will not stoop to comfort and help your brethren. This must arise from pride—from a fancy that you are something exceptionally exalted, whereas such notions arise from self-deception—a phantom which represents nothingness.Galatians 6:3. Δοκεῖ εἶναί τι, seems to be something) in the Spirit. Whoever does not think himself to be something, he and he alone bears the burdens of others.Verse 3. - For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself (εἰ γὰρ δοκεῖ τις εϊναί τι μηδὲν ὤν φρεεναπατᾷ ἑαυτόν [Receptus, ἑαυτὸν φρεναπατᾷ; for if a man is nothing and thinketh himself to be something, he is deceiving his own soul. The conjunction "for" points back to the practical direction just given to the "spiritual;" meaning that for those who wished to be, and also perhaps to be thought to be, fulfilling Christ's law, this was the behaviour which they were to carry out, and without which their claim was mere self-delusion. The phrase, δοκεῖ εϊναί τι μηδὲν ὤν, is well illustrated by the passage cited by critics from Plato's 'Apologia,' p. 41, E: Ἐὰν δοκῶσί τι εϊναι μηδὲν ὄντες ὀνειδίζετε αὐτοῖς... ὅτι,... οἴονταί τι εϊναι ὄντες οὐδενὸς ἄξιοι "Something" is, by a common meiosis, put for "something considerable" (cf. Galatians 2:6). The especial form of eminence, the claim to which is here referred to, is eminence in spirituality and consistency as a servant of Christ. Possibly the apostle has in his eye certain individuals among the Galatians that he had heard of, who, professing much, were, however, self-complacently bitter and contemptuous towards brethren who had gone wrong in moral conduct or who differed from themselves in the disputes then rife in those Churches. The phrase, μηδὲν ὤν, "being nothing," is a part of the hypothesis relative to the individual case spoken of, not a statement putting forth the aphorism that no one is really anything. The passage quoted above from Plato shows, that in the latter case we should have had οὐδὲν and not μηδέν. Some men, by the grace of God, are "something;" but these persons only fancy themselves to be so. Whether any man is really "something" or not is determined by his practical conduct - his "work" as the apostle expresses it in the next verse. The verb φρεναπατᾷν occurs in the New Testament only here, though we have the substantive φρεναπάτης, deceivers, in Titus 1:10. St. James (James 1:26) speaks of a man "deceiving his heart ' in seemingly just the same sense. In both passages it appears to be meant that a man palms off upon his own mind fancies as if they were just apprehensions of real facts; in both also these fancies are but illusive notions of one's own religious character - here, as being "spiritual;" in James, as being "religious" or "devout" (θρῆσκος) - the activity of practical benevolence being in both cases wanting; for "the bridling not his tongue" in ver. 26 is proved by the contrasted behaviour spoken of in the next verse to refer to those sins of the tongue which are implicitly condemned in vers. 19-21.
To be something (εἶναί τι)
N.T.o. olxx, oClass. See the noun φεναπάτης deceiver, Titus 1:10. Denoting subjective deception; deception of the judgment. The simple ἀπατᾶν to deceive, Ephesians 5:6; 1 Timothy 2:14; James 1:26, and often in lxx. Lightfoot thinks the compound verb may possibly have been coined by Paul.
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