Notes on Galatians
Scope and Divisions of Galatians
Galatians is in character a controversy. In effect it is a buttress to the foundation truths of Romans, yet not stopping where Romans does, but carrying the truth of Christian position further. In Romans we have the man "in Christ," "dead to sin," "dead to the law." In Galatians we have the further truth that he is "crucified to the world," and a "new creation." New creation has been, indeed, implied in Romans, as we have seen through all the latter part, but we have only had at present Christ as the Head of it. Now we have it actually named. "In Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation."
The controversial character accounts for the historical development which we find so much in Galatians, and for the place in which we find the history. In Romans, for instance, we have the apostle referring to Christ as "Minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers," but also "that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy," and he refers to his own ministry to the Gentiles; but there is no development of all this, nor is it needed, and it comes rather as an appendix to the epistle itself, than as forming any proper part of it. On the other hand, in Galatians, we begin with history, a history of his own ministry, in which the source and channel of his apostleship and his absolute independence of those who were apostles before him are made apparent. He owes nothing to them. He has from them only a confirmation of the gospel which he preached before, and, in Peter's case, finds it in what, in a certain way, is opposition, although this is a matter of weakness on the part of the Jewish apostle and not of deliberate opposition. All this comes at the beginning necessarily, because the question made of his teaching goes on to question of his ministry altogether, and in order that he may be listened to, he has to put this upon the most positive ground. This occupies the first two chapters. We have then what is more doctrinal, the contrast between faith and law, but even here the argument is in method historical. We have, for instance, the priority of God's promise to Abraham and of the principle of faith established in it as 430 years before the law; with the consequence of this that the law could add nothing, coming where it does, to the unconditional promise. The opposition of principle is also given to us, its attitude toward man such that Christ has to bear the curse for him in order that the blessing promised him may come. If the law comes so late, also, there is seen in this very thing that it is not other than, as the apostle has already said in Romans, a thing coming in by the way. God has not put the whole world under the school-master, nor men at all from the beginning of the world. It was added "for the sake of transgressions," as the verse really says; that is, to have them; not to have sin , but, as we have seen already, to turn sin into transgression, so to make it manifest, and in its exceeding sinfulness as against the authority of God Himself. Thus, of necessity, we find the limit of the law also, when God takes up openly faith as His principle; the purpose for which the law came, (that is, to shut man up to faith,) is accomplished, and we are no longer under a school-master.
In the third place, the apostle dwells upon that which is the characteristic of Christianity now, and which the law never gave, the Spirit of adoption, by which we cry, "Abba Father." The law brought distance. Here is nearness of the most endeared kind, and he can bring the law itself as typically, but none the less really, teaching the bringing forth to bondage which characterized the children of law, the seed according to the flesh; in contrast with the freedom of those who are children of the free woman and themselves free. Here too is history: even the gift of the Spirit is that; especially as marked openly by the signs which we know accompanied this, public as they were; and so the story of Abraham's children, however much the use of this is allegorical.
This mode of argument is strikingly different from Romans, where the appeal is rather to the conscience. History, as God's writing broadly on the face of the world, is evidently more adapted to the conviction of the Galatians, now giving up so much of what He had witnessed to their consciences, and who are made to face a witness which they cannot gainsay or mistake. The arrangement of every detail here is nothing short of divine; and they must face God about it.
Finally, we have in Galatians, the practical test as to the working of the two principles in opposition-law and grace. The Galatians themselves are a sample of it. They had found in the gospel a happiness which made them ready to give their very eyes to the man who had ministered it to them. Now they have taken up the law to perfect according to the flesh what had been begun in the power of the Spirit: as a consequence they were biting and devouring one another. The effect of law was being made manifest. He closes with the declaration of the perfect rule for a Christian, the man in Christ, as belonging to the new creation, neither to walk, therefore, as the Gentile, in lawlessness, nor in legality, as the Jew. His whole standpoint, as shown in the unique character of the gospel which he brings, is outside the world, outside, therefore, all that to which the law applied. The veil is rent and Christ in heaven is once more seen as both the rule and power of the new activity.
The divisions are, therefore:
1. (Ch.1-2) Paul's gospel as unique in source and power.
2. (Ch.3) The contrast of law with faith.
3. (Ch.4 - 5:6) The meaning of the Spirit of adoption having come.
4. (Ch.5:7 - 6:18) The practical test.
Division 1: Paul's gospel as unique in source and power.
Subdivision 1 - His entire independence of man in it.
The Galatians show us, in a pregnant example, how little man can be trusted to hold the blessing that he has. If, in fact, its continuance to him depended upon this, how hopeless would be the case; but our blessings are in Christ, held fast there by divine grace for us, and thus it is alone that they could avail us.
The Galatians had received the gospel with joy and thankfulness, yet now seemed ready to surrender it, no doubt without proper realization that they were doing so. They were simply adding the law to it, but, as the apostle shows them, this would be, in fact, to surrender it altogether. He writes with earnestness as always, but with a sharpness which was not characteristic of him. He salutes no one in the letter. He starts at once with his theme, wishing them, indeed, "grace and peace from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ," but not even addressing them as the church or God, but simply as the "churches" (or assemblies) "of Galatia ." He is, as he says, "in doubt about them." He has "to travail in birth again until Christ be formed" in them. Thus, they are for him assemblies which have afresh to prove their right to be called Christian assemblies. Their doctrinal wanderings he treats more seriously than that moral evil which we find at Corinth , and which strikes men naturally as being of a far worse character; but without the gospel, morality cannot maintain itself, and in the doctrine of Christ is the root of all morality. Thus he is as strong and peremptory as possible, pronouncing a curse upon himself or an angel from heaven, if it were possible for such to preach any different gospel from that he had preached to them.
1:1-5 An apostle not from men, nor through man, but from God alone.
1. He begins at once declaring the unique character of his ministry. He affirms his apostleship in the fullest manner, as "not of men," (derived from them as its source,) "nor through man" as the channel of its conveyance; but alone "through Jesus Christ, and God the Father who raised Him from the dead." He is sent by the risen Christ, as we know, and not simply by Christ risen, but by One whom he sees for the first time in the glory of God in heaven. This character of his ministry marks his whole teaching here. He adds as confirmation of what he is saying, that all the brethren are with him in what he writes. This defection of the Galatians was, as he will show more perfectly, in fact, from the faith held by all. He adds that "Christ gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father." The age, as we have seen, is the time -world, characterized by its opposition to God. The true Prince of the world has been crucified and cast out; the "god of this age" is Satan, but we are thus at once outside the world,-outside the whole region to which the law applies, as is evident. The Father's will is our deliverance from it.
1:6-10 A different gospel, not another
2. He begins at once, his heart full, to express his wonderment, knowing what he had known of how divine grace had wrought in them, that they were so soon being removed from Him who had called them unto the grace of Christ, to a different gospel. They had had in themselves, surely, the evidence that this call was of God. Blessing and power had not lacked. The gospel to which now they were listening was not another gospel, for there was no other. It was no true gospel, though it might bear the name of that. It was only the effort of some who were troubling them and who wished to pervert the gospel of Christ. Immediately he denounces them with the utmost severity; but it is love that speaks in the severity itself. If it were himself or "an angel from heaven who preached tiny other gospel than that which had been preached to them," (and he repeats this lest they should think that it was an ill-considered outburst)-if any one "preached any other gospel than that," not merely which had been preached to them, but "which they had received " also , "let him be accursed." He was not, he adds, concerned about conciliating men in saying this. It was for God he spoke, as desiring to have Him upon his side, not seeking to please men; for to be a man-pleaser and a servant of Christ would be in total contradiction .
1:11-12 The preaching of a revelation
3. He goes on now to show how he had himself learned this gospel. He had not learned it of men, he had not preached it as being educated in any human school. He had been taught it by one thing alone, the marvelous revelation of Christ to him. It was this which changed him from an enemy and a persecutor to the ardent and self-sacrificing disciple of Christ. The Galatians were listening to human teachers, though, as he has already intimated, they had, in fact, had the gospel which t hey had received, confirmed to them by the internal evidence as to its character, and the joy and power with which God had accompanied it.
1:13 -24 His change and surrender of flesh and blood
4. He goes now into the circumstances of his conversion. He knew all about this Judaism which they were getting back into. He did not speak as one who had been a stranger to it. On the contrary, he had made the very greatest advances,-was an enthusiast for the law, beyond those of his own nation amongst whom he was, and, as an evidence of this he was beyond them all in persecuting the Church of God and wasting it. How the essential opposition of principles comes out here! Here it was only the human school that he was following; the traditions of his fathers, with all their appeal to nature and self-interest, stirred up his zeal; but God had better purposes for him, God, who had separated him from his mother's womb, and now called him by His grace. His Son was revealed, not merely to him, objectively, but in him, to be hence forth t he one abiding power and reality for his soul; and the spell of his traditional religion which h ad set him in opposition to the Christ of God, collapsed in that moment.
He was thus the suited preacher for the Gentiles, just as himself no Gentile, but a Jew in fullest reality of zealous legalism. If he gave this up, he gave it up as fully knowing it, as realizing in himself its contrariety to the grace which God had shown him. In the consciousness of this divine call, he now conferred not with flesh and blood, and not even with those who were apostles before him. God had, in his case, broken through all semblance even of apostolic succession, so dear to many since. On the contrary, having received this revelation, he went off into Arabia , into the desert, and returned once more, from such a school as Moses learned in, to the place to which h e had come to persecute this faith which he now was preaching. By and by he did indeed go up to Jerusalem "to see Peter; but abode with him only fifteen days, and other of the apostles saw none except James, the Lord's brother." Again he went off into regions far apart, and the churches of Judea which were in Christ did not know him even by face. They had simply heard that the persecutor preached now what he had been persecuting, and they glorified God in him.
As we think upon this history in its connection with what we have already seen as to the character of Christianity, it is plain how fully the prophetic character is manifested in it as characteristic of its ministry. The prophet is one brought near to God, to learn His mind in His presence, and is sent forth from God, responsible to Him alone in the message entrusted to him, to declare that mind. The priesthood in Israel was successional; but, as a consequence, in fact, of this, the succession guaranteed to it no true spiritual character whatever. The priesthood might, and did as we know, go far astray from God. Still the priest was the priest, and to be owned as that until God were pleased to set him aside; but the prophet even in Israel was a totally different person. Receiving his call in the most distinct way possible from God Himself, his spiritual character was vouched for by this independent call of God. He who sent him was responsible for him. Acquaintance with God was what marked him. He was characteristically the "man of God"; and as such stood forth for God, as we see in the history, in the times of deepest defection and apostasy, with his message of recall or of warning and judgment. This is, in fact, the character of all New Testament ministry. There is no official standing anywhere, to be revered whatever the life may be . The message from God is the whole matter; and the life if not with God would forfeit at once the claim to reality in the message. The gift is from God alone, bringing its responsibility with it. To accept man's authorization of it would only be dishonor to the glorious Giver.
Subdivision 2 - Confirmation, spite of opposition
The apostle goes on now to the history of his after-communications with those who were apostles before him, and to show that while they added nothing to him in the matter of testimony, they themselves did in the fullest way confirm the reality of that apostleship which he independently received.
2:1-10 Acknowledgement of the grace given
1. He did not go up again to Jerusalem till fourteen years had elapsed, during which much work had been done amongst the Gentiles, and Titus accompanying himself and Barnabas was the fruit of that work. The time at which he went up was that when there had been raised at Antioch itself a question of the character of this new gospel to the Gentiles. We have had the history of it already in the fifteenth of Acts. Paul and Barnabas, as we find there, were sent with the full concurrence of the brethren at Antioch , to settle once for all this matter which was agitating them; but, as he tells us here, even in this case, he did not go up as yielding merely to the solicitation of others, but by express revelation from God. The time had come, in fact, when if there was not to be an open breach, there must be the manifestation of an agreement between those who were the leaders at Jerusalem , the central place for Judaism, and those who were preaching the new gospel. He went up accordingly and communicated to them the gospel that he was preaching; first of all, (on account of the height to which t he opposition ran,) "privately to those who were of reputation," lest the outbreak of the legalism which was carrying the multitude should work disaster among those who had been gathered out among the Gentiles. This is what he means evidently by saying that he did this, "lest he should run or had run in vain." There was no yielding to the opposition in the slightest degree. Titus was with him, a Greek, yet in fullest Christian fellowship, and without being circumcised. Already he speaks of false brethren who had been unawares brought in, who were seeking to bring into bondage Christ's free men. Christianity, in fact, at Jerusalem was at present so little more than a Jewish sect that we can readily understand how open would be the door for men of this class to flock into it. The apostle withstands them, not giving place, as he says "for an hour." It might seem to others to be a small matter, that for which he was contending. With him it involved the whole truth of the gospel. The success was manifest. In conference he found that "those who seemed to be somewhat" had nothing to communicate to him; but, on the other hand, recognized that to him God had, in fact, committed the gospel of the uncircumcision just as truly as to Peter he had given that of the circumcision. The same mighty power in signs and wonders accompanied his work amongst the Gentiles as that which had manifested itself in Peter among the circumcision; and those who seemed to be pillars, (whom he now names, as James, Cephas and John,) perceived the grace that was given to him. They gave then to him and to Barnabas "the right hand of fellowship"; not simply as Christian brethren, but that they should go to the Gentiles, as they themselves remained as ministers to the circumcision. They only stipulate that the poor should be remembered; a testimony, as it seems, as to the character of those who were being reached by the gospel in Israel ; and we find, accordingly, Paul zealous afterwards to bring to these the offerings of the Gentiles.
2:11-21 Peter's contradiction
2. Such then had been the confirmation given him; but he now goes further and shows that upon an after occasion at Antioch , he had had to withstand Peter himself and that as blameworthy. He had been with them in the unrestricted liberty of Christianity, eating with the Gentiles. A change was induced by the coming of some from James. We see how firmly the Judaizing character still remained with many of these. And when they were come, Peter withdrew and separated himself, not from any conviction of error on his part, but simply as giving way, as Paul had not given way, to the opposition which he feared. Such an example in such a place soon worked disastrously. The other Jews, apparently the mass of those there, dissembled likewise with him. It was not, as we see again, conviction, but retrograde movement in spite of their convictions; and this went so far that Barnabas, the companion of Paul himself, was carried away with this dissimulation. The power of God to resist this movement was found with Paul alone. He saw that they "walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel;" and singling out Peter, not now for private conference, but in the presence of them all, (for Peter needed not to be convinced but convicted,) he said to him: "If thou being a Jew livest after the manner of Gentiles," as he had been doing, "and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou now the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?" Necessarily they were doing that if they were making circumcision a necessity for the Jews to have fellowship with them. He appeals to the character of Judaism in itself in opposition to this. What had they themselves who were Jews by nature done with regard to this? They were not sinners of the Gentiles, yet-he could speak for himself fully, as we know, as the most zealous of law-keepers-yet they knew that a man was not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ. They had given up, therefore, the one for the other. They had believed in Christ to be justified by the faith of Christ; because by the works of the law could no flesh be justified. Judaism had thus been given up: for men could not take up the law as they pleased, as a rule of life, as people say sometimes, but not as a rule of judgment. They had to take it for that for which God gave it, and a rule of judgment it necessarily was if it was to answer the purpose for which He gave it. If then they had renounced the law in order to be justified by Christ, and had found justification in this way, could it at the same time be sin to renounce it; and had Christ become the minister of sin in this matter of their justification? To build again the things destroyed was to make themselves transgressors in having destroyed them. The law either existed for them or it did not exist. We see that he goes mach further than applying it or not to Gentiles; and carries to its full result the principle of the decision at Jerusalem , which went beyond the decision itself. He himself through the law had become dead to the law, and that he might live to God . The whole Christian life, therefore, was involved in this. The epistle to the Romans has made us fully acquainted with the argument here. The law itself, through Christ bearing its penalty for them, had, as it were, affirmed their death to it. He was crucified with Christ, with Him who, as he says afterwards, had borne the curse of the law, its extremest penalty, beyond which it had no claim at all. Thus he was free. Dead with Christ, it was to live, and he lived; yet not, so to speak, himself. The Christ who had been upon the cross for him, who was now in heaven, had won him for Himself, that Christ who henceforth in the glorious reality of what he saw Him to be, lived in him. It was more than Christ being his life: Christ was his true self, the aim and object of his life from henceforth; for the life which he lived in the flesh, he lived now in the faith of the Son of God who, in the wonder of His perfect grace, had loved and given Himself for him. Would they put Christ under the law also? Alas, some would and do even to-day. For the apostle, it was far otherwise. The law, if it remained now for him, would be simply the destruction of all the value of Christ's death for him. If righteousness came by the law, that death of Christ was null and void. Thus it is plain that the question of the law as a possible rule of life for the Christian is settled by the apostle's words here. God never made it that. It is manifest that even as a rule, if it were-nay, just because it was-the perfect rule for the Jew, if the Christian be anything different, anything higher than a Jew, the Jew's rule could not give to his walk its Christian character. Instead of being too high for Christian attainment as a standard, it is all too low. In fact, there is nothing of the heavenly side of Christianity expressed in the law at all. It is the man in the flesh over whom the law has dominion; and, as we have seen elsewhere, the sphere of law is thus altogether this side of death, and not beyond it. The Christian is, through grace, beyond it. Death and judgment are behind him, not before him. He belongs to another sphere; and though upon earth, he is, nevertheless, the man in Christ, to live and walk as that. It is plain that Peter, in pursuing the course he did, had no thought whatever to be in conflict with the truth of justification before God. He simply adopted the law for the moment as a rule of life, but the apostle makes it a question of the whole gospel. He has no thought of the possibility of its being a mere rule of conduct. God meant it to raise the question of righteousness before Him. "The man that doeth these things shall live by them" was, in regard to it, the whole matter.
Division 2: The contrast between law and faith.
Paul comes now, at once, to the question of doctrine, but, as has already been said, he takes it up in a way in which we have not seen it in Romans. His historical treatment of it was indeed the plainest possible argument that he could use for those whose eyes were as dull as those of the Galatians had got to be. The broad facts of the history were there and none could deny them. God had given the promise to Abraham, a simple, unconditional promise, in which He had pledged His whole truthfulness to fulfil His word, long before the law was given at all. The argument at once brings in the authority of God Himself to settle the question.
3:1-9 The promise to Abraham gives priority to faith
1. He appeals to them, however, in the first place, as having received that Spirit of Christ which was the distinctive feature of Christianity. It was nothing less than a bewitchment for them now not to obey the truth, when Christ Himself-Christ crucified, as announced in the gospel, yet in the power of His grace-had been received in faith and owned by them. It was in consequence of their reception of Him that the Spirit was given. Manifestly through all the dispensation of law there was nothing like this. There was no Spirit of adoption. It had never come to any by the works of the law. It now came in universally as the result of the hearing of faith. As has often been said, if it were declared in the Old Testament that God was a Father to Israel, this was the very opposite of owning as His family those who were truly His children-for all were not of the true Israel even, that were Israelites. It was a nation in the flesh that God had been pleased to take up, and to put them in a certain relation to Himself; not in that spiritual relation which Christianity implied, for as to any of this people of God, there was no settlement of the eternal question. They might drop out of this place into hell. There was no security as to those in mere Judaism. Thus the Galatians had experience of the power of the gospel and of its being a power which the Jew, as such, knew nothing of. They had suffered, too, for the gospel, as the apostle implies. Was it all a mistake? Had it been in vain? The Spirit was "ministered" manifestly through those who preached the gospel to them; and who preached, as would ordinarily be the case then, with accompanying signs and wonders on God's part, in witness to His word. Was it by the works of the law (according to that principle) that these things were wrought, or according to the opposite manner of the hearing of faith? The law said doing , not hearing. The gospel said hearing , not doing.
But in this Christianity only went back to the pattern of the one whom God had, in His wisdom, set in an unmistakable place in connection with the Jew himself. Abraham was the one through whom they expected all their blessing; but Abraham, as the record was, "believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness." In his case there were no works of the law, when the law as yet did not exist. If then in him faith was reckoned for righteousness,-if in him, God, having found no righteousness in man, took up the principle of faith for righteousness, it is evident that those who were truly his children would be accepted according to that principle. They which were of faith would be the children of Abraham. The Scripture then had expressly anticipated the justification of the nations through faith. It had preached, as it were, the gospel unto Abraham in the announcement that in him all the nations should be blessed. "In him" could not mean because of his merit, as the Jew perhaps was ready to aver; for as to him all merit had been disclaimed: but, on the contrary, that the nations should be blessed on that principle of faith which God had brought to the front, and acknowledged with regard to Abraham. They which were of faith, therefore, would be blessed with believing Abraham.
3:10-12 The contrary principle and effect of law
2. Now, to this the law could not be added. It was, as we have seen again and again, precisely the reverse of this principle. In faith there is the renouncing of self, the turning to Another on that account. On the other hand, in the law, no question of Another comes in at all. It is " the man that doeth them shall live by them"; but then, alas, that means curse, and curse only. As many as were of the works of the law, (as many as were on that principle), were under the curse; not that law works were bad works; clearly, the very reverse; but it was written, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them." That is the principle as announced by the apostle, when yet Christianity had come. He certainly knew what he was speaking of. He certainly did not believe that Christianity had modified this in any measure, so as to make a certain amount of legal works acceptable to God. The law said "all things," and the apostle says after it, "all things." No one has title to alter this in the least. But then the curse was as manifestly on every one; and how blessed, therefore, the grace which had declared in the Old Testament itself the opposite principle, when it was said by the prophet that "the just shall live by faith." That was the plain renunciation of the law for justification in the sight of God, for "the law is not of faith," as we have seen. It is the man that doeth them: it is not the work of Another, it is the man's own work by which he is to live. Christ, therefore is out of question here. If we will be justified upon the principle of the law, we must give up Christ.
3:13 -14 Christ under the curse, for the fulfilment of the promise of the Spirit
3. But, in fact, redemption has come for us. We were, says the apostle, hopelessly under the curse of the law. That was all that it could do for us, and when Christ came, instead of there being any relinquishment of this, on the contrary, He Himself had to redeem us from the curse of the law as made Himself that curse. A strange way this may seem to be expressed in, indeed, "for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth upon a tree." One would say that the mere hanging upon a tree could neither in itself be the curse, the true curse upon sin, nor, on the other hand, mark out, of necessity, those who were under the curse. It was, as we should say a thing apparently perfectly arbitrary. An innocent man might hang upon a tree, just as a man steeped in guilt to the uttermost might never hang there. Why is it then that the law expresses itself after this manner? And here we must move carefully, for mistakes have been made on different sides as to this. We have to remember that, while in itself the law was a system of earthly government, though of divine appointment, on the other hand, in its purport spiritually it went beyond this altogether. As an earthly government-the government of an earthly people-it did not in its rewards or penal sanction go beyond the earth. It never said of the keeper of its commandments, "He shall go to heaven;" nor of the convicted sinner, "He shall go to hell."  This has been often spoken of, yet needs to be fully understood; for if it is not, confusion must result. God meant that the conviction of man by it should be fully accomplished, and therefore put both penalty and reward in a sphere cognizable by him, and not in an eternity as to which he can speculate as he pleases, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die," and "the man that doeth them shall live by them," were meant to speak plainly in the common language of men; and thus speaking, the issue of the law is as plain and intelligible as its power to convict is absolutely undeniable.
The shadow of man's condemnation by it must darken the prospect beyond death; while yet God has not tied Himself to the legal judgment. If He had, there would be no hope for any. But the curse attached to hanging upon a tree is not of necessity an eternal one. Yet if there be no way of escape it will be that for all. He who bore it for others rose out of it by His own perfection ( Heb.5:7 ), as those for whom He bore it by that vicarious work on their behalf.
The Cross marked the character of that work, as death in its full penal character, and therefore the forsaking of God; and that which for others might lose its deepest meaning, for the sacrificial victim had all its significance. An ass might be redeemed with a lamb; but the lamb devoted could not be redeemed ( Lev.27:10 ). Is it not plain that prophetically this hanging on a tree points out the One who was indeed to be under the curse from God, and that the law waited, as it were, through all the centuries of its existence until it found finally its satisfaction in that one wonderful fulfilment, the cross of Christ? Thus alone could the blessing of Abraham come on the Gentiles; for if the Gentiles were not, in fact, under the law, (as dispensationally they were not) yet sin must, of necessity, have the same shadow of the curse following it ever. Gentile or Jew, it could make no difference before God, and, in fact, that form which the law gave to the curse could only be the figure of a deeper thing. The blessing of Abraham could not come upon the Gentiles themselves except a s that curse was removed out of the way of man by Jesus Christ, and thus alone could we receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
3:15-18 Impotence of the law to annul the promise
4. The apostle returns now back to Abraham and the promise to him, in order to show the impotence of the law to annul it. He appeals here to the moral sense of man. If he were only a man, and had made a covenant unconditionally, pledging himself to this or that, and especially, he adds, "If this covenant were confirmed, no one could disannul it" and no one could add a condition to it. Now God had made it, as is clear, in these promises to Abraham, and confirmed them, as he tells as directly, to Christ. The covenant was of promise and it was both made and confirmed. It was an absolute promise, not a conditional one. No condition, therefore, could be added without destroying its very nature. When God said "in thy Seed," it was of Christ plainly that he was speaking. As we look back at the history, we see that it was after Isaac had been delivered, as Scripture says, in a figure, from that sacrificial death from which Christ was not delivered, that God gave this. It was Christ that was in His mind. Here was the Lamb whom God would provide for the burnt-offering. Here was the ram who in the truth of it saved Isaac, as we may say-the ram caught by its horns in the thicket; Christ thus, caught, as it were, by the very power that He had to save and bless, which His love would not allow Him, therefore, not to put in exercise. Christ was the Seed to whom God confirmed the covenant of promise, and the law came 430 years too late to set it aside at all; but it is manifest if it were added to it, it would disannul it. The apostle dismisses both thoughts, the disannulling and the adding, the adding being, in fact, the same as disannulling. Law added would be the introduction of a contradictory principle; for if the inheritance were of the law, it would be no more of promise, whereas God gave it to Abraham by promise.
3:19-22 The governmental end of the law
5. Naturally enough the question comes here, Why then the law? "It was added," answers the apostle, " for the sake of transgressions." Such is the expression; which means, not to keep transgressions in check, as the common thought seems to be, for Scripture itself has already told us that "where there is no law, there is no transgression." Thus it could not keep transgression in check; on the contrary, it could only produce it; that is, as we have already said, it could make sin take that form. It was added, then, for that purpose; and it was added for a certain season; not being that which could confer the blessing upon man, it must be taken out of the way, in order that the blessing might come. It was added, therefore, temporarily for a certain reason; added "till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made." There was another thing. "It was ordained by angels," but it had nothing of the glory of the new covenant as made good by Christ. The glory at Sinai, as the psalmist says, was angelic glory ( Ps.68:17 ). God Himself was unrevealed; He was behind, in the thick darkness. Or if Moses saw Him, it was but the back parts: His face could not be seen. And the very reflection of glory thus in the face of Moses made men unable to behold; it, therefore, put man only in the distance, did not bring him nigh, and thus there had to be a mediator, manifestly Moses himself; but a mediator implies two parties. "A mediator is not a mediator of one," but God was the only One who spoke in the promise to Abraham. God is One: there was no other party. All depended, therefore, in the promise, upon God Himself.
But this seems to set the law against the promise of God, men might urge. Nay, he says, in the nature of the case, a law would have had to be given which could have given life, in order that righteousness might be worked out under it. Life was what man needed. The law was the ministration of death and not of life. Righteousness, therefore, could not be by the law; and the law was not against the promise of God, but, on the contrary, shut men up to that promise for all their blessing. The Scripture which speaks of it, "hath shut up all under sin that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe."
3:23-25 Its limit reached, faith having come
6. This shows us, therefore, clearly the limit of the law. "Before faith came," that is, before it was God's open and acknowledged principle of blessing, "we were kept under the law, shut up to the faith which should afterwards be revealed." That faith was made necessary by the fact of the ruin in which the law proved us to be. God must bring in blessing through Another: faith in Another mast be His principle. The law thus was our schoolmaster until Christ. It had a needed lesson to teach for a time. No schooling is for all time. The schoolmaster's work is to make us independent of himself, and the law's work was to bring us into a place where it would no more be needful. Its very service was to shut us up to justification by faith alone, no other mode being possible. But if, then, this is to be so, "after that faith is come, we are no longer under the schoolmaster." Faith being openly proclaimed God's principle, the law's work is done.
3:26-29 And in Christ, Jew and Gentile perfected alike
7. And this is shown by the fact of the new place into which God has put His people now, "sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus;" the school of law is not the proper place for us. That does not mean that we are not to profit by the lessons which the law taught, of course. We may profit by the lessons which we learn in school without being under the schoolmaster; but under the schoolmaster, no one says "Father." The place of sons as such is manifestly somewhere else than at school. This, then, has come for us, for "as many of us as have been baptized to Christ have put on Christ." Christ is, according to the truth announced in baptism itself, the One in whom we are, therefore, before God. It is His perfection, His beauty that is seen upon us. Nothing else is seen, no earthly condition, no place of privilege beside. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Manifestly, if each one of us is in Christ, Christ must be the same for each and all of us. There can be no distinction here. For distinction, we must look away from Christ; but if then we "are Christ's," then "are we Abraham's seed," in the fullest way identified with the very One in whom the blessing was to be, identified with the very Heir of blessing, and therefore heirs according to the promise, "in thy Seed:" that is Christ, in whom we are.
Division 3: The meaning of the Spirit of adoption having come.
Subdivision 1 - The Grace given
1. The apostle, therefore, now naturally returns to what he has already spoken of as the manifest peculiar blessing of Christianity itself, the coming of the Spirit. "We are all the sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus"; but then there were children of God before Christianity. The children of God were not gathered together as such; the true children were not acknowledged as such; but they were there. Christ died, not for the nation of Israel only, but that He might gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. There were, then, children, even while they were scattered. There were children of God under the law, but as long as they were there, they differed nothing from servants. There was no cry of "Abba, Father." There was no Father openly acknowledging them. The children were just as much children. They were, in that sense, "lords of all." Nevertheless, they differed nothing from servants as to their practical condition. They were "under tutors and governors," for their own good, "until the time appointed of the Father." Now this tutelage, as the apostle tells us, was yet a real bondage. The law was the elements of the world. It is, in fact, what enters into every system of natural religion that was ever in man's mind. It is the principle upon which the whole world goes on, which is necessary to it, and man can conceive no other; but, by that very fact, it was bondage to the child of God. He was under that which denied him the nearness which was truly his own and prevented his serving in the liberty of the child's place.
4:4-5 The Son subjected to law for our redemption from it
2. But the "fulness of time" came. God had steadfastly in view the Object which was before Him and He could not delay longer than necessity demanded. "When the fulness of the time" then "was come, God sent forth His Son," the One in whom there was necessarily, by what He was, the greatest possible nearness to Himself, yet now apparently at a distance, "come of a woman" and actually Man, but "come under the law" also, under that which to every other was bondage, which for Himself could be none. With Him there was no impossibility of working out the righteousness of the law. It could only testify to the perfection that was in Him, and thus, after His thirty years of probation, the Spirit of God comes openly upon Him, marking Him out as the Object of God's fullest delight. He was sealed, as we are not, because of His own perfection; but He entered, in that very act, upon a course of ministry to others in which redemption would be accomplished for those under the law, that now "we might receive the adoption of sons"; that is, the full place of children , as well as the reality of being such.
4:6-7 The Spirit in the heart manifests the sons
3. For this is what sonship means, in contrast with children, as the terms are used here. The child ( tevknon) is the one by nature that. He is born to it, and if born he can never cease to be the child of the one of whom he is born; but he may not have the place of child, and that is what in Scripture, "sonship" implies. The son ( uvijoi ) is the acknowledged child, the child in the child's place; and that is what is proper to Christianity. Children there were before it, but now they are "sons"; and we have received, in that way, the adoption. The consequence is: "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father." Notice that the place as given of God must be ours first, then comes the qualification for the place, the Spirit of His Son. How wonderfully does that speak! It is not the spirit of a son simply, but the Spirit of His Son. In fact, it is the perfection of Christ which has rendered possible this reception by us of the Spirit of Christ, and which, therefore, brings us into the sweetness of the assurance of what Christ Himself is to God, in the value of which we abide. How then, asks the apostle as it were, is it possible, in such a place, to be a servant any longer, that is, a slave? It is the bondage of slavery of which he is speaking. Servants, of course, we are in a true sense, by the very fact that we are sons. We serve as such. God has title to service, surely, from all His sons, but there is no bondage in this. If sons, we are gloriously free, and if sons, we are heirs of God through Christ. This, then, is the characteristic of Christianity.
4:8-20 The lapse of the Galatians
4. The apostle turns now, therefore, to the Galatians, to appeal to them as to their lapse from such conscious blessedness. The going into Judaism is for him much the same thing as going back to the heathenism out of which, in fact, they had been brought. They had not known God, and then were doing service to those who by nature were no gods. Now they had known Him, or rather He had known them. Known and recognized, how could they turn to "the weak and beggarly elements of the world" whereunto they desired again to be in bondage? It was heathenism in which, in fact, they had been. These "elements of the world" for them had been in heathenism, and yet he says "How turn ye again?" It was all the same thing, in fact; if Christ were given up, what did it matter? They were observing days and months and times and years. Nothing very dreadful, people would say, in that; but he immediately comments upon it: "I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain." Then he beseeches them that they should be still as he himself continued to be; their lapse could not injure him in one sense. They knew how, in spite of infirmity of the flesh, he had preached the gospel to them at the first. They had not taken offence at the weakness, the physical weakness that they saw in him; they had not rejected him on account of that, which, in fact, was only designed to make the power of the Spirit in him more apparent. They had received him as an angel of God, even as the Christ he represented. Had they then, in fact, known that blessedness of which they had certainly spoken? They would have plucked out their own eyes and have given them to him. How was it now? Did telling them the truth make him their enemy? But there were others who were manifesting great zeal in their behalf, not in a right way. They were acting, as he puts it, for a purpose-would exclude the apostle, that they might have themselves that place in their affections which they had robbed him of; but if they had really found the blessing which they declared, would it not be good for them to abide in that, to show their zeal after that manner? In fact, he was full of longing after them. He had been the one who had brought them into this blessing in Christ. Now he was travailing in birth again, as it were, (had all the sorrow and pain of that), until Christ should be formed in them. He desired to be present with them, yet with a changed voice. He had had to change it, for he stood in doubt of them.
Subdivision 2 - The testimony of the law itself
4:21 -31 As the mother, so the birth
1. If they would not listen any more to the gospel or to the one who had spoken to them for Christ, the apostle would appeal now to the very law itself, which undoubtedly they must hear. Zealous law-keepers must hear the law. Here he goes back to Abraham again, and in a manner which, to some who scarcely fully accept the typical character of Old Testament history, would appear strange. Yet to "foolish Galatians" he can use this without questioning their ability to realize, not only the likeness to truth, but the truth itself that is in it. In fact, these typical pictures speak for themselves and are designed to speak. When once we have the key to them, their perfect agreement with the truth can be nothing else than that designed of God to set it forth. Abraham's two sons thus naturally speak of those two classes of his offspring of which the apostle has been speaking. There is the seed after the flesh; there is the seed after the Spirit, the natural child "and the spiritual child," the child "of faith." It is not hard, therefore, to understand the similitude when he emphasizes the one seed as that by a bondmaid, the other by a free woman. Bondage and freedom have been his theme already. How fully plain does it become when he tells us that he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh, in the ordinary course of nature, with nothing necessarily of God in it, and on the other hand he of the free woman was by promise. He has already spoken of this promise, has already connected its "in thee," said of him whose faith was reckoned to him for righteousness, with the faith of those who are the children of promise. These things, he says, not, "are an allegory," exactly, but "are allegorized." They were true things, things which had actually taken place, no question, but which nevertheless had "happened to them," as the apostle says of other things in their history, "for types." They had a divinely intended meaning in them and not merely could be used to show forth such things. These two, then, are the two covenants, the one from the Mount Sinai , the law bringing forth to bondage, which is Hagar; the other, that of promise " Jerusalem which is above," "which is the mother of us all," or "which is our mother." " Jerusalem which is above" naturally carries our thoughts on to that of which John gives us in his Revelation by and by a fuller view. It was the home city, the city of which all the people of God now are children. The apostle speaks of it as having a present reality and a place which faith indeed alone can recognize, but which is none the less real. Paul turns to the prophet here, in order to show us that while, in fact, the barren was not bearing (before the time of Israel's real travailing and birth, as in a day to come) there would be, nevertheless, the strange paradox of many more children to her than when she had an husband. This is language which the apostle's word about the olive-tree in the epistle to the Romans should enable us clearly to understand. The branches are broken off, but yet there are branches in their place which are counted as part of the olive-tree itself. They are, in fact, in a true sense, the fruit of Israel , although Israel has in the meantime lost that fruitful condition, and here we find the children which, in fact, should more rejoice her heart, when looking at things from the divine point of view, than all the generations of the nation in the flesh merely. Here, of course, are the children of promise. Here is the true Isaac, but the opposition between the one born after the flesh and this new spiritual birth is manifest. This very apostle is proof of it even now, but the known opposition everywhere manifest on the part of Israel to Christ and to His people was, of course, the greatest proof. Israel after the flesh was persecuting the children of promise, but what would be the result? The casting out of the bondwoman and her son. God had, in fact, disclaimed the principle of the law, which was the principle of bondage, and if He had now sons that were really of the free woman, children of promise, children that divine grace had made such, there could not be a common recognition of these and of those so totally opposite. "We then," he says, "brethren, are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free." The law could easily, as it were, and naturally, bring forth children to God. How natural it is for men to accept a system of this sort and to be put upon such terms with God. The whole nation of Israel at once and decisively took this ground without a question. On the other hand, the true seed desired of God must be all born by divine power; born slowly, as one may think, long years passing while they seem to be only scanty in number and slow enough to mature, yet, after all, God will have His own. Scorn as Israel might those who now were being by the Spirit of God led to Christ and Christianity, Israel's casting out was already manifestly at hand, when the very place of their holy house would be dug up by the Roman people and the worship ordained of God for the people in the flesh would no longer be possible to them. Their house was left to them desolate. It was their house, not God's, but that was the sentence upon it. It would soon be not even their house any longer.
5:1-6 Circumcision binds to law, and antagonizes Christ and faith
2. The apostle closes with the exhortation to "stand fast therefore in the liberty with which Christ hath made us free" and not to be "entangled again with the yoke of bondage." He is very strong that there could be no profit of Christ to those who put themselves under the law. If they were circumcised, Christ would profit them nothing. A circumcised man was a debtor to do the whole law. This may seem strange from one who, as we know, before this time had himself circumcised Timothy, but the circumstances were entirely different. Timothy was a Jew by his mother's side, and it was, in that case, such a concession on the part of one not under the law putting himself under it in the very liberty that he had to gain others, as made it a sign, therefore, of liberty instead of bondage. With the Galatians it would be entirely different. They, as Gentiles, were not debtors to the law in any way, and if they put themselves under it, it was to gain from it a spiritual blessing; it was a real addition, therefore, to Christ that they were making, but by this, as we have already seen, they would be "fallen from grace," for grace cannot admit the conditional principle of law without losing all its character. Again, we see also that he has no thought of any one taking up the law as a rule of life simply; it is of justification by it that he speaks, and this was in fact the only question that the law raised; but as Christians in possession of the Spirit, which we have seen to be the sign of their Christianity, they were outside the law, and necessarily in possession of a righteousness which the Spirit of God could seal, a righteousness perfect before God. They only waited in faith for the hope which was connected with this; not for righteousness as a hope, but for the hope of glory attaching to it. Thus, they were beyond any possible need of law; and "in Christ," as he declares, "neither circumcision" availed "anything, nor uncircumcision." A man was quite outside both the Jewish and the Gentile acceptance. God accepted nothing, except as faith, which, as the sign of dependence, drew blessing from Him; and which, in its nature, worked not by the principle of fear, which was that of law, but by love.
Division 4: The practical test of the two principles
5:7-15 The one command of law
1. The blessing could not be more complete, and they had experienced the joy and power of it. This causes him again to express his astonishment at their now refusing obedience to the truth. They had been running well. Who now was hindering them? It certainly did not come from God, this new persuasion. On the other hand, the power of evil was such that a little leaven would soon leaven the whole lump. Evil, in fact, makes continual demands. One departure from truth will necessitate many, in order that there may be perfect consistency. There can be no possible compromise in a path like this, but how great the folly of those who, having experienced the joy and power of divine grace, could now take up with that which was in its nature absolutely contrary! If he looks at them, he may well be disheartened; but in grace itself he had found his refuge. In the Lord he could have confidence that they would be none otherwise minded, and the troubler, whoever it might be, should bear his judgment. He sees easily that there was temptation enough indeed, in a certain sense, to adopt such a thing as circumcision, which would remove, as between Jews and Christians, the whole offence of the cross. The apostle puts it as a thing impossible rightly to cease, and we see the persecution of which he is thinking is on the part of the Jew; and we have seen, it was so distinctly in the history which the Acts has given us. It was to the Jew that the cross was a scandal-the sign, as he has already told us, of One upon whom the law put its curse, of a curse needed to be taken because of the condition of those under law. How impossible for the Jew to allow that the law had nothing but a curse for man, and that the very Saviour of men, to be that, must bear the curse! The cross was the complete condemnation of man before God. It was also complete deliverance for those who accepted the condemnation, but this was the destruction necessarily of all legal righteousness. "I would," he says, "they would even cut themselves off which trouble you." He has no possible tolerance for that which was the destruction of Christian truth and principle; his love to the souls of men made him what people would call intolerant. But, in fact, while these men would uphold the law, the very thing that the law required from man was in practice set aside. The Galatians were finding it so. They had given up their true Christian liberty, and yet, after all, were not keeping the law, for all the law was fulfilled in one word, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." They had surely realized the power of divine grace in this way, but now the effect of their legal addition to the gospel was a total change in their own spirit. They were, as he intimates, "biting and devouring one another." What use to talk about the law in such a state as that? They might well be afraid lest they should "be consumed one of another;" but this is the necessary effect of law ever. The law is claim, demand, and expects, therefore, a full ability on man's part to meet the demand. The spirit of self-righteousness, which alone could take comfort in it on such a principle, has necessarily in it no tenderness, no recognition of one's own infirmity and no compassion for the infirmity of others. The law itself had none and could have none. It was its business to condemn, and it did it well. If a man continued not "in all things written in the book of the law to do them," he was under the curse. How simple, that to accept the law, then, as that under which one was, would be the destruction of all tenderness, of the very spirit which the law really required.
5:16-21 The antagonism of flesh and Spirit
2. There is indeed in man everywhere the flesh and the lust of the flesh, and for a soul that does not yet realize the true deliverance that God has for us, the perfectly natural remedy is to take up with the law. It is, in fact, no remedy, but the reverse. The remedy is to "walk in the Spirit," as he urges upon them here. "Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh,"-not as some would read it now, ye shall have no flesh , nor even, ye shall have no lust of it. Lust is that which gives the flesh its character; that is to say, the craving of an unsatisfied heart away from God, and this, too, remains in the Christian, as is plain from what he urges here. "For the flesh," he says, "lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other." He does not say, as the common version puts it: "So that ye cannot do the things that ye would," but "So that ye should not." He will not think of an impossibility on the part of one who walks in the Spirit. To the Spirit, clearly, nothing can be impossibility. Still, the two remain here, as we have seen already in Romans, even in the delivered Christian; and just as in Romans, it is against the Spirit that the flesh lusts. He does not give us here the striving of self against self which was that of the man in the seventh chapter, as yet not delivered. He is not, therefore, as some imagine, speaking simply of what was a low state on the part of the Galatians. Granted that they were in a low state, but he puts it here as a general truth, and in language, as already said, which would apply to a man in the Spirit, a delivered man. Even so, flesh and Spirit are there with all their absolute opposition to one another, and the tendency is necessarily to hinder one doing the things he would. Some have put it as if it was the will of the flesh that the Spirit here hinders, but even in the conflict of the seventh of Romans, or rather, in the state of bondage which we find there, the captive, after all, assures himself that the things that he would are the things according to God. The apostle would not allow that the will away from God is a Christian state at all; but the flesh, nevertheless, will seek to assert itself, and the only remedy for the soul is the way of the Spirit; that is, as we have seen, in occupation with Christ. With Him before our eyes, there is nothing for the lust of the flesh whatever, and moreover the heart that truly knows Him finds in Him a satisfaction and rest which delivers from the corruption that is in the world through lust; but then, "if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law." The two things are in absolute and perfect contradiction one to another.
The works of the flesh are now enumerated, and we must remember that if the flesh be in the Christian, he can never promise himself that they will not be found in their full dreadful character, if once there be license given to it. The apostle has no idea of a modified flesh in a Christian. There are doubtless very different characters of it, but a close brotherhood in the family of sin. The apostle puts them together in that way-"Murder, drunkenness, revellings and such like," very different in the extent of the evil, but if the soul's anchorage be lost there is no possibility of telling how far it will drift. It is only the power of the Spirit that can control the flesh: and He controls it by leading us as we have seen, in another way; but the Spirit, while the full expression of divine grace towards us, nevertheless requires the most complete subjection to Himself. God must be God. It is no grace that will tolerate any forgetfulness of this. "Sin shall not have dominion over you, because ye are not under the law, but under grace." Grace is not toleration in any wise, and the Spirit of God can only lead those who are in full subjection in desire, at least, to Him. It is here that we need to be able so fully to say: "Search me, O God, and try me," to have our feet in the blessed hands of One who cleanses after His own mind as to cleansing. Of the whole category of sin here, it is said, "They that do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God ." That is the road to death from which the Spirit of God takes a man, not leaves him upon it.
5:22-26 The fruit of the Spirit
3. The fruit of the Spirit is now brought before us. Here, too, is a brotherhood of graces. "Fruit" the apostle calls it. The flesh has its works. He will not give that the name of "fruit," and here it is not, in fact, of work that he is speaking, but of an inward temper, the development of the divine nature, which, therefore, is in unity and peace all through. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-government, against such there is no law." Thus, that which the law could give no power to fulfil, is found by thus walking in the Spirit, and "they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts:" that is to say, they have accepted the cross of Christ as that which is for them the judgment of it all and their separation from it. How perfect, in fact, is the judgment of self which the cross truly apprehended gives. It is not merely the judgment of this or that about us, but the complete removal of the man in the flesh, in order that Christ may fill all the scene for us. The knowledge of the new man is that "Christ is all and in all." Thus, it is not a process, as he puts it here, this crucifixion: it is a thing accomplished. We may have to learn by degrees what it means. The light grows brighter upon the path as we walk in it, and we discern more clearly, no doubt, that which suits God. Thus, there is growth in apprehension as to detail, but as to principle, the thing is done at the start. It is Christ, not self that we have put on, and it is that which suits Him that we follow. As it is put in Colossians, we are to "do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus," that is to say, as representing Him upon earth; and that means, assuredly, that from the start the flesh is crucified for us. The cross stands at the beginning of the Christian path, and the Galatians here had the Spirit. He does not question it. They were alive in the Spirit. If so, he says, let the walk be in the Spirit also, "let us not be desirous of vain glory" which the law, if man could keep it, could not but promote, the effect necessarily following; but as to others there would be a spirit of intolerance and not of love; "provoking one another," he says here, "envying one another."
6:1-5 Mercy to the falling, as experiencing one's own weakness
4. We see that he is occupied throughout here, with the practical test; a powerful method of appeal surely, to those who had, in fact , known the blessedness which the gospel could give; far as they might now be departing from it. The law might require love indeed and did; but it could not produce it, could not even encourage such a spirit in those that followed it. You will never find the 1egal mind tender really of others. The apostle, therefore, presses it upon them here, that if they were, in fact, spiritual, that would be seen in their behaviour. If one were overtaken in a fault, they would restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, the very opposite of the spirit engendered by the principle which they had taken up. They would consider themselves lest they also should be tempted; but for a man under law, it does not do to consider himself after that fashion; it would work discouragement and despair. On the other hand, he must assure himself under law of his competence to fulfil t he commandment, and therefore be must exact from others the fulfilment ; assured of their competence no less than his. Spirituality, in fact, may be claimed by those who act in a very opposite spirit to this. That is what he rebukes here. He does not mean to affirm their spirituality. He does not mean that a man has to look at himself and ask whether he is spiritual, before he can realize ability to restore another. The spirit of meekness is the very opposite of such fancied spirituality. The spiritual man is too near Christ to believe in himself; to walk in that presence has, as its surest mark, the spirit of lowliness; and if the Spirit of God bear witness in our souls in a practical way, it will not be to puff us up with the idea of Christ-likeness, but on the contrary to point out to us where we are unlike Him; yet here there is no spirit of discouragement or despair engendered. If we have once learned the true judgment of ourselves before God as the cross gives it to us, we shall not expect to find anything in ourselves, and therefore shall not be disappointed; yet our resource is at hand, our strength is in Another, "In Christ dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and we are filled up in Him." There can be no want then to us, and there can be no self-confidence in those whose habitual resort is to this fountain of supply. The spirit of meekness, therefore, will go with true spirituality. Let them show it, he urges, in that way. Let them "bear one another's burdens", so they would fulfil the law of Christ, who Himself assuredly was the great burden Bearer. On the other hand, if a man thought himself to be something when nothing (when did he ever think himself to be something without being nothing?) he would deceive himself. He adds now a word against those who were, in contradiction to his own principle, building upon another man's foundations, and indeed, rather destroying those foundations, than building upon them. "Let every man", he says, "approve his own work and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone and not in another." In the end, every one would bear his own burden 2 . Every Christian must at last take up his own responsibility before God, as we know. Everyone must give account of himself to God. It would be the triumph of divine grace to be able to do it after the fashion in which we shall do it; and yet, nevertheless , there is enough in the thought for the utmost seriousness.
6:6-10 The reaping as the sowing
5. He enters now upon the subject, which this opens, of divine government, a thing which is not, as we know, in the slightest contradiction with divine grace. These are things which are sometimes put as if in some sense contrary to one another; but, on the other hand, the government of God for us is expressly a Father's government, while it is, none the less, that of One who, without respect of persons, judgeth according to every man's work. This is, of course, a thing of the present, not of the future. The future judgment, whether with regard to saint or sinner, is in the hands of Christ. "God hath committed all judgment to Him because He is the Son of Man," but there is a government which is, none the less, the government of grace, because it is one absolutely intolerant of evil. We may repeat again t hat the toleration of evil is never grace. It would be a perversion of the very thought of grace to imagine this. "Be not deceived," he says, therefore, "God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap, for he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption and he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." These are principles of absolute necessity. Nothing can alter them. If a man sows a certain seed, he knows, or he should know, that he can get of that seed nothing but what is proper to it. If a man sows to his flesh, he sows, in fact, the corruption which he reaps. The very principle of self-will which must, of necessity, be in it, is a principle which is essentially that of sin. Every form of sin will come under this, and God may allow, in fact, such seed to come to harvest, in order that we may recognize its character, as we otherwise would not do. In the opposite way to that of the man who, bearing good seed, goes forth even weeping, but returns with joy, a man in this way may sow his seed rejoicing, but it will be the return that will be sorrowful. It does not follow that God cannot come in and deliver us from what would otherwise be the necessary fruit of such sowing, if only there be the true self judgment of it in the soul; for to a Christian, the reaping of it is but in order to self-judgment, and if we will judge it first, there may be no need of reaping at all. Judge it first or last we surely must, or the thing will develop for what it is and be manifest, not to ourselves alone it may be, but to others also. On the other hand, "He that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." Blessed and wonderful reaping! The life is looked at here, of course, in its practical character, in its fruits and activities. The life itself, the life which produces this, is no matter of reaping at all, it is what we must have to be Christians. Nevertheless, we can reap it as a practical thing, and the witness of it is that, even though reaped here upon earth, it is something which has eternity in it. All that which in us here is the fruit of the divine work has necessarily its link with eternity. It is for eternity that we are preparing. There is not even just that sharp division between the present and the future for us which we are apt so to imagine. It is eternity that God has before Him, it is the things eternal with which we are conversant day by day. It is eternity, therefore, that imprints its character upon the present. It is the life everlasting which we live practically now, and let us not then, says the apostle, be "weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not." The path is through a world of trial, and therefore, though in itself all well doing has its own delight, yet the opposition to it from the world through which we pass will surely give us need of such an encouragement as this. "As we have, therefore, opportunity, let us do good unto all men, but especially," he adds, "unto them who are of the household of faith." This ends very mach the practical test which he has been making of the two principles which we have seen in opposition all the way through the epistle. All the way through it is a controversy, and one from which we need not expect to escape while we are here. God's principles lead into conflict, and, alas, not merely with the men of the world, but, it may be, as here, with the children of God themselves.
6:11-14 The end of the world for us in the cross
6. In the earnestness of his desire for them, the apostle, contrary to his wont, has penned all this epistle with his own hand. His custom was simply to put a salutation from his hand at the end; but in this case, he could not, as it were, trust another, or was not free to dictate to another the things that were in his heart. It was not with him, as with those of whom he was writing, a fair show in the flesh that he was making. He was not wanting followers, nor, as they, to escape persecution for the cross of Christ. He charges them openly with this. They did not keep the law, they could not but be conscious of that. Their desire to have others circumcised was simply that they might glory in their flesh. For him all that was ended. The cross of the Lord Jesus Christ had closed for him the whole scene here; and in it the world it was that was crucified, and he himself to the world. The character of the world was thus stamped upon it. The cross was for him a shadow resting upon it. If it had judged and cast out Christ, he who was identified with Christ before God, and had learned to identify himself thus, was one whom they had crucified.
6:15-18 The perfect rule, a new creation in Christ Jesus
7. Christ was beyond it all. He had seen Him, Head of a new creation; in Him circumcision availed nothing now, nor uncircumcision. These had nothing to do with new creation. They belonged to the world, to the fallen world. The Christian walk was outside them altogether, not after the Jewish pattern of legality nor the Gentile pattern of lawlessness. There was a new rule-a rule which made a man "a pilgrim and a stranger" here, the rule of belonging to this other scene in which already the glory of Christ was displayed. In the light of that he walked, and for such as do so he desires and pronounces upon them "peace and mercy," (mercy of which they still had need) "and upon the Israel of God" - the true Israelite,  not the fleshly one. Here then, the matter rested for him. None need trouble him more. He bore already in his body the "brands of the Lord Jesus", the brands of trials and sufferings undergone for Christ and which marked him as the bondman of Christ in the joyful apprehension of the love that had been shown. He closes with the constant benediction that was in his heart: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit."
 From the Numerical Bible
It must be remembered that the Old Testament "hell" is "sheol," which is hades, the place of the dead.
These are two different words in the original.
That is, the natural descendants of Abraham who were also spiritual. SR