VERSE 1.Brethren,if a man be overtaken in a fault ye which are spiritual, restore such an one inthe spirit of meekness.
If we carefully weigh the words of the Apostlewe perceive that he does not speak of doctrinal faults and errors, but of muchlesser faults by which a person is overtaken through the weakness of his flesh.This explains why the Apostle chooses the softer term "fault." Tominimize the offense still more, as if he meant to excuse it altogether and totake the whole blame away from the person who has committed the fault, he speaksof him as having been "overtaken," seduced by the devil and of theflesh. As if he meant to say, "What is more human than for a human being tofall, to be deceived and to err?" This comforting sentence at one timesaved my life. Because Satan always assails both the purity of doctrine which heendeavors to take away by schisms and the purity of life which he spoils withhis continual temptations to sin, Paul explains how the fallen should betreated. Those who are strong are to raise up the fallen in the spirit ofmeekness.
This ought to be borne in mind particularly bythe ministers of the Word in order that they may not forget the parentalattitude which Paul here requires of those who have the keeping of souls.Pastors and ministers must, of course, rebuke the fallen, but when they see thatthe fallen are sorry they are to comfort them by excusing the fault as well asthey can. As unyielding as the Holy Spirit is in the matter of maintaining anddefending the doctrine of faith, so mild and merciful is He toward men for theirsins as long as sinners repent.
The Pope's synagogue teaches the exact oppositeof what the Apostle commands. The clerics are tyrants and butchers of men's conscience. Every small offense is closely scrutinized. Tojustify the cruel inquisitiveness they quote the statement of PopeGregory: "It is the property of good lives to be afraid of a faultwhere there is no fault." "Our censors must be feared, even if theyare unjust and wrong." On these pronouncements the papists base theirdoctrine of excommunication. Rather than terrify and condemn men's consciences,they ought to raise them up and comfort them with the truth.
Let the ministers of the Gospel learn fromPaul how to deal with those who have sinned. "Brethren," he says,"if any man be overtaken with a fault, do not aggravate his grief, do notscold him, do not condemn him, but lift him up and gently restore his faith. Ifyou see a brother despondent over a sin he has committed, run up to him, reachout your hand to him, comfort him with the Gospel and embrace him like a mother.When you meet a willful sinner who does not care, go after him and rebuke himsharply." But this is not the treatment for one who has been overtaken by asin and is sorry. He must be dealt with in the spirit of meekness and not in thespirit of severity. A repentant sinner is not to be given gall and vinegar todrink.
VERSE 1.Consideringthyself, lest thou also be tempted.
This consideration is very much needed to puta stop to the severity of some pastors who show the fallen no mercy. St.Augustine says: "There is no sin which one person has committed,that another person may not commit it also." We stand in slippery places.If we become overbearing and neglect our duty, it is easy enough to fall intosin. In the book entitled "The Lives of Our Fathers," one of theFathers is reported to have said when informed that a brother had fallen intoadultery: "He fell yesterday; I may fall today." Paul therefore warnsthe pastors not to be too rigorous and unmerciful towards offenders, but to showthem every affection, always remembering: "This man fell into sin; I may fall into worse sin. If those who are always so eagerto condemn others would investigate themselves they would find that the sins ofothers are motes in comparison to their own."
"Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." (I Cor. 10:12.) If David who was a hero of faith and did so many greatthings for the Lord, could fall so badly that in spite of his advanced age hewas overcome by youthful lust after he had withstood so many differenttemptations with which the Lord had tested his faith, who are we to think thatwe are more stable? These object lessons of God should convince us that of allthings God hates pride.
VERSE 2.Bearye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
The Law of Christ is the Law of love. Christgave us no other law than this law of mutual love: "A new commandment Igive unto you, That ye love one another." To love means to bear another'sburdens. Christians must have strong shoulders to bear the burdens of theirfellow Christians. Faithful pastors recognize many errors and offenses in thechurch, which they oversee. In civil affairs an official has to overlook much ifhe is fit to rule. If we can overlook our own shortcomings and wrong-doings, weought to overlook the shortcomings of others in accordance with the words,"Bear ye one another's burdens."
Those who fail to do so expose their lack ofunderstanding of the law of Christ. Love, according to Paul, "believeth allthings, hopeth all things, endureth all things." This commandment is notmeant for those who deny Christ; neither is it meant for those who continue tolive in sin. Only those who are willing to hear the Word of God and theninadvertently fall into sin to their own great sorrow and regret, carry theburdens which the Apostle encourages us to bear. Let us not be hard on them. IfChrist did not punish them, what right have we to do it?
VERSE 3.For if a man think himself to besomething, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
Again the Apostle takes the authors of sectsto task for being hard-hearted tyrants. They despise the weak and demand thateverything be just so. Nothing suits them except what they do. Unless youeulogize whatever they say or do, unless you adapt yourself to their slightestwhim, they become angry with you. They are that way because, as St. Paul says,they "think themselves to be something," they think they know allabout the Scriptures.
Paul has their number when he calls themzeros. They deceive themselves with their self-suggested wisdom and holiness.They have no understanding of Christ or the law of Christ. By insisting thateverything be perfect they not only fail to bear the burdens of the weak, theyactually offend the weak by their severity. People begin to hate and shun themand refuse to accept counsel or comfort from them.
Paul describes these stiff and ungracioussaints accurately when he says of them, "They think themselves to besomething." Bloated by their own silly ideas and schemes they entertain apretty fair opinion of themselves, when in reality they amount to nothing.
VERSE 4.Butlet every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himselfalone, and not in another.
In this verse the Apostle continues his attackupon the vainglorious sectarians. Although this passage may be applied to anywork, the Apostle has in mind particularly the work of the ministry.
The trouble with these seekers after glory isthat they never stop to consider whether their ministry is straightforward andfaithful. All they think about is whether people will like and praise them.Theirs is a threefold sin. First, they are greedy of praise. Secondly, they arevery sly and wily in suggesting that the ministry of other pastors is not whatit should be. By way of contrast they hope to rise in the estimation of the people. Thirdly, once they have established areputation for themselves they become so chesty that they stop short of nothing.When they have won the praise of men, pride leads them on to belittle the workof other men and to applaud their own. In this artful manner they hoodwink thepeople who rather enjoy to see their former pastors taken down a few notches bysuch upstarts.
"Let a minister be faithful in hisoffice," is the apostolic injunction. "Let him not seek his own gloryor look for praise. Let him desire to do good work and to preach the Gospel inall its purity. Whether an ungrateful world appreciates his efforts is to givehim no concern because, after all, he is in the ministry not for his own glorybut for the glory of Christ."
A faithful minister cares little what peoplethink of him, as long as his conscience approves of him. The approval of his owngood conscience is the best praise a minister can have. To know that we havetaught the Word of God and administered the sacraments rightly is to have aglory that cannot be taken away.
The glory which the sectarians seek is quiteunstable, because it rests in the whim of people. If Paul had had to depend onthis kind of glory for his ministry he would have despaired when he saw the manyoffenses and evils following in the wake of his preaching.
If we had to feel that the success of ourministry depended upon our popularity with men we would die, because we are notpopular. On the contrary, we are hated by the whole world with rare bitterness.Nobody praises us. Everybody finds fault with us. But we can glory in the Lordand attend to our work cheerfully. Who cares whether our efforts please ordisplease the devil? Who cares whether the world praises or hates us? We goahead "by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report." (II Cor. 6:8.)
The Gospel entails persecution. The Gospel isthat kind of a doctrine. Furthermore, the disciples of the Gospel are not all dependable. Many embrace the Gospel today and tomorrow discard it.To preach the Gospel for praise is bad business especially when people stoppraising you. Find your praise in the testimony of a good conscience.
This passage may also be applied to other workbesides the ministry. When an official, a servant, a teacher minds his businessand performs his duty faithfully without concerning himself about matters thatare not in his line he may rejoice in himself. The best commendation of any workis to know that one has done the work that God has given him well and that Godis pleased with his effort.
VERSE 5.Everyman shall bear his own burden.
That means: For anybody to covet praise isfoolish because the praise of men will be of no help to you in the hour ofdeath. Before the judgment throne of Christ everybody will have to bear his ownburden. As it is the praise of men stops when we die. Before the eternal Judgeit is not praise that counts but your own conscience.
True, the consciousness of work well donecannot quiet the conscience. But it is well to have the testimony of a goodconscience in the last judgment that we have performed our duty faithfully inaccordance with God's will.
For the suppression of pride we need thestrength of prayer. What man even if he is a Christian is not delighted with hisown praise? Only the Holy Spirit can preserve us from the misfortune of pride.
VERSE 6.Lethim that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all goodthings.
Now the Apostle also addresses the hearers ofthe Word requesting them to bestow "all good things" upon those whohave taught them the Gospel. I have often wondered why all the apostlesreiterated this request with such embarrassing frequency. In the papacy I sawthe people give generously for the erection and maintenance of luxurious churchbuildings and for the sustenance of men appointed to the idolatrous service of Rome. I saw bishops and priests grow richuntil they possessed the choicest real estate. I thought then that Paul'sadmonitions were overdone. I thought he should have requested the people tocurtail their contributions. I saw how the generosity of the people of theChurch was encouraging covetousness on the part of the clergy. I know betternow.
As often as I read the admonitions of theApostle to the effect that the churches should support their pastors and raisefunds for the relief of impoverished Christians I am half ashamed to think thatthe great Apostle Paul had to touch upon this subject so frequently. In writingto the Corinthians he needed two chapters to impress this matter upon them. Iwould not want to discredit Wittenberg as Paul discredited the Corinthians byurging them at such length to contribute to the relief of the poor. It seems tobe a by-product of the Gospel that nobody wants to contribute to the maintenanceof the Gospel ministry. When the doctrine of the devil is preached people areprodigal in their willing support of those who deceive them.
We have come to understand why it is sonecessary to repeat the admonition of this verse. When Satan cannot suppress thepreaching of the Gospel by force he tries to accomplish his purpose by strikingthe ministers of the Gospel with poverty. He curtails their income to such anextent that they are forced out of the ministry because they cannot live by theGospel. Without ministers to proclaim the Word of God the people go wild likesavage beasts.
Paul's admonition that the hearers of theGospel share all good things with their pastors and teachers is certainly inorder. To the Corinthians he wrote: "If we have sown unto you spiritual things is it a great thing if we shall reapyour carnal things?" (I Cor. 9:11.) In the old days when the Pope reigned supreme everybodypaid plenty for masses. The begging friars brought in their share. Commercialpriests counted the daily offerings. From these extortions our countrymen are now delivered by the Gospel. You would think theywould be grateful for their emancipation and give generously for the support ofthe ministry of the Gospel and the relief of impoverished Christians. Instead,they rob Christ. When the members of a Christian congregation permit theirpastor to struggle along in penury, they are worse than heathen.
Before very long they are going to suffer fortheir ingratitude. They will lose their temporal and spiritual possessions. Thissin merits the severest punishment. The reason why the churches of Galatia,Corinth, and other places were troubled by false apostles was this, that theyhad so little regard for their faithful ministers. You cannot refuse to give Goda penny who gives you all good things, even life eternal, and turn around andgive the devil, the giver of all evil and death eternal, pieces of gold, and notbe punished for it.
The words "in all good things: are not tobe understood to mean that people are to give all they have to their ministers,but that they should support them liberally and give them enough to live well.
VERSE 7.Benot deceived; God is not mocked.
The Apostle is so worked up over this matterthat he is not content with a mere admonition. He utters the threatening words,"God is not mocked." Our countrymen think it good sport to despise theministry. They like to treat the ministers like servants and slaves. "Benot deceived," warns the Apostle, "God is not mocked." God willnot be mocked in His ministers. Christ said: "He that despiseth you, despiseth me." (Luke 10:16.) To Samuel God said: "They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me." (I Sam. 8:7.) Be careful, you scoffers. God may postpone His punishmentfor a time, but He will find you out in time, and punish you for despising Hisservants. You cannot laugh at God. Maybe the people are little impressed by thethreats of God, but in the hour of their death they shall know whom they havemocked. God is not ever going to let His ministers starve. When the rich suffer the pangs ofhunger God will feed His own servants. "In the days of famine they shall be satisfied." (Ps. 37:19.)
VERSE 7.Forwhatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
These passages are all meant to benefit usministers. I must say I do not find much pleasure in explaining these verses. Iam made to appear as if I am speaking for my own benefit. If a minister preacheson money he is likely to be accused of covetousness. Still people must be toldthese things that they may know their duty over against their pastors. OurSavior says: "Eating and drinking such things as they give; for the laborer is worthy of hishire." (Luke 10:7.) And Paul says elsewhere: "Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things ofthe temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Evenso hath the Lord ordained, that they which preach the gospel should live of thegospel." (I Cor. 9:13, 14.)
VERSE 8.Forhe that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he thatsoweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
is simile of sowing and reaping also refers tothe proper support of ministers. "He that soweth to the Spirit," i.e.,he that honors the ministers of God is doing a spiritual thing and will reapeverlasting life. "He that soweth to the flesh," i.e., he that hasnothing left for the ministers of God, but only thinks of himself, that personwill reap of the flesh corruption, not only in this life but also in the life tocome. The Apostle wants to stir up his readers to be generous to their pastors.
That the ministers of the Church need supportany man with common sense can see. Though this support is something physical theApostle does not hesitate to call it sowing to the Spirit. When people scrape upeverything they can lay their hands on and keep everything for themselves the Apostle calls it a sowing to the flesh. He pronounces those who sow to theSpirit blessed for this life and the life to come, while those who sow to theflesh are accursed now and forever.
VERSE 9Andlet us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faintnot.
The Apostle intends soon to close his Epistleand therefore repeats once more the general exhortation unto good deeds. Hemeans to say "Let us do good not only to the ministers of the Gospel, butto everybody, and let us do it without weariness." It is easy enough to dogood once or twice, but to keep on doing good without getting disgusted with theingratitude of those whom we have benefited, that is not so easy. Therefore theApostle does not only admonish us to do good, but to do good untiringly. For ourencouragement he adds the promise: "For in due season we shall reap, if wefaint not." "Wait for the harvest and then you will reap the reward ofyour sowing to the Spirit. Think of that when you do good and the ingratitude ofmen will not stop you from doing good."
VERSE 10.Aswe have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto themwho are of the household of faith.
In this verse the Apostle summarizes hisinstructions on the proper support of the ministers and of the poor. Heparaphrases the words of Christ: "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh,when no man can work." (John 9:4.) Our good deeds are to be directed primarily at those whoshare the Christian faith with us, "the household of faith," as Paulcalls them, among whom the ministers rank first as objects of our well doing.
VERSE 11.Yesee how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.
With these words the Apostle intends to drawthe Galatians on. "I never," he says, "wrote such a long letter with my own hand to any of the other churches." His other epistles hedictated, and only subscribed his greetings and his signature with his own hand.
VERSE 12.Asmany as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to becircumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.
Paul once more scores the false apostles in aneffort to draw the Galatians away from their false doctrine. "The teachersyou have now do not seek the glory of Christ and the salvation of your souls,but only their own glory. They avoid the Cross. They do not understand what theyteach."
These three counts against the false apostlesare of so serious a nature that no Christian could have fellowship with them.But not all the Galatians obeyed the warning of Paul.
The Apostle's attack upon the false apostleswas not unjustified. Neither are our attacks upon the papacy. When we call thePope the Antichrist and his minions an evil brood, we do not slander them. Wemerely judge them by the touchstone of God's Word recorded in the first chapterof this Epistle: "Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any othergospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him beaccursed."
VERSE 13.Forneither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have youcircumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.
In other words: "I shall tell you whatkind of teachers you have now. They avoid the Cross, they teach no certaintruths. They think they are performing the Law, but they are not. They have notthe Holy Spirit and without Him nobody can keep the Law." Where the HolyGhost does not dwell in men there dwells an unclean spirit, a spirit thatdespises God and turns every effort at keeping the Law into a double sin.
Mark what the Apostle is saying: Those who arecircumcised do not fulfill the Law. No self-righteous person ever does. To work, pray, or suffer apart from Christ is to work, pray, and tosuffer in vain, "for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." It does aperson no good to be circumcised, to fast, to pray, or to do anything, if in hisheart he despises Christ.
"Why do the false apostles insist thatyou should be circumcised? Not for the sake of your righteousness,"although they give that impression, but "that they may glory in yourflesh." Now what sort of an ambition is that? Worst of all, they forcecircumcision upon you for no other reason than the satisfaction they get out ofyour submission.
VERSE 14.ButGod forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"God forbid," says the Apostle,"that I should glory in anything as dangerous as the false apostles gloryin because what they glory in is a poison that destroys many souls, and I wishit were buried in hell. Let them glory in the flesh if they wish and let themperish in their glory. As for me I glory in the Cross of our Lord JesusChrist." He expresses the same sentiment in the fifth chapter of theEpistle to the Romans, where he says: "We glory in tribulations"; andin the twelfth chapter of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians: "Mostgladly, therefore, will l rather glory in my infirmities." According tothese expressions the glory of a Christian consists in tribulations, reproaches,and infirmities.
And this is our glory today with the Pope andthe whole world persecuting us and trying to kill us. We know that we sufferthese things not because we are thieves and murderers, but for Christ's sakewhose Gospel we proclaim. We have no reason to complain. The world, of course,looks upon us as unhappy and accursed creatures, but Christ for whose sake wesuffer pronounces us blessed and bids us to rejoice. "Blessed are ye," says He, "when men shall revile you, andpersecute you. and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingglad."(Matt. 5:11, 12.)
By the Cross of Christ is not to beunderstood here the two pieces of wood to which He was nailed, but all theafflictions of the believers whose sufferings are Christ's sufferings. ElsewherePaul writes: "Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind ofthe afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church." (Col. 1:24.)
It is good for us to know this lest we sinkinto despair when our opponents persecute us. Let us bear the cross for Christ'ssake. It will ease our sufferings and make them light as Christ says, Matthew11:30, "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
VERSE 14.Bywhom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
"The world is crucified unto me,"means that I condemn the world. "I am crucified unto the world," meansthat the world in turn condemns me. I detest the doctrine, theself-righteousness, and the works of the world. The world in turn detests mydoctrine and condemns me as a revolutionary heretic. Thus the world is crucifiedunto us and we unto the world.
The monks imagined the world was crucifiedunto them when they entered the monastery. Not the world, but Christ, iscrucified in the monasteries.
In this verse Paul expresses his hatred ofthe world. The hatred was mutual. As Paul, so we are to despise the world andthe devil. With Christ on our side we can defy him and say: "Satan, themore you hurt me, the more I oppose you."
VERSE 15.Forin Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, buta new creature.
Since circumcision and uncircumcision arecontrary matters we would expect the Apostle to say that one or the other might accomplish some good. But he denies that either of them do anygood. Both are of no value because in Christ Jesus neither circumcision noruncircumcision avail anything.
Reason fails to understand this, "for the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God." (I Cor. 2:14.) It therefore seeks righteousness in externals. However,we learn from the Word of God that there is nothing under the sun that can makeus righteous before God and a new creature except Christ Jesus.
A new creature is one in whom the image ofGod has been renewed. Such a creature cannot be brought into life by good works,but by Christ alone. Good works may improve the outward appearance, but theycannot produce a new creature. A new creature is the work of the Holy Ghost, whoimbues our hearts with faith, love, and other Christian virtues, grants us thestrength to subdue the flesh and to reject the righteousness of the world.
VERSE 16.Andas many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy.
This is the rule by which we ought to live,"that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and trueholiness." (Eph. 4:24.) Those who walk after this rule enjoy the favor of God, theforgiveness of their sins, and peace of conscience. Should they ever beovertaken by any sin, the mercy of God supports them.
VERSE 17.Fromhenceforth let no man trouble me.
The Apostle speaks these words with a certainamount of indignation. "I have preached the Gospel to you in conformitywith the revelation which I received from Jesus Christ. If you do not care forit, very well. Trouble me no more. Trouble me no more."
VERSE 17.ForI bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
"The marks on my body indicate whoseservant I am. If I was anxious to please men, if I approved of circumcision and good works as factors in our salvation, if I would take delight in yourflesh as the false apostles do, I would not have these marks on my body. Butbecause I am the servant of Jesus Christ and publicly declare that no person canobtain the salvation of his soul outside of Christ, I must bear the badge of myLord. These marks were given to me against my will as decorations from the deviland for no other merit but that I made known Jesus."
Of the marks of suffering which he bore inhis body the Apostle makes frequent mention in his epistles. "I think," he says, "that God hath set forth us the apostleslast, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world,and to angels, and to men." (I Cor. 4:9.) Again, "Unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and arebuffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our hands:being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, weintreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of allthings unto this day." (I Cor. 4:11-13.)
VERSE 18.Brethren,the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
This is the Apostle's farewell. He ends hisEpistle as he began it by wishing the Galatians the grace of God. We can hearhim say: "I have presented Christ to you, I have pleaded with you, I havereproved you, I have overlooked nothing that I thought might be of benefit toyou. All I can do now is to pray that our Lord Jesus Christ would bless myEpistle and grant you the guidance of the Holy Ghost."
The Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, who gaveme the strength and the grace to explain this Epistle and granted you the graceto hear it, preserve and strengthen us in faith unto the day of our redemption.To Him, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, be glory, world without end.Amen.