In this chapter the Apostle Paul presents thedoctrine of Christian liberty in a final effort to persuade the Galatians togive up the nefarious doctrine of the false apostles. To accomplish his purposehe adduces threats and promises, trying in every way possible to keep them inthe liberty which Christ purchased for them.
VERSE 1.Standfast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.
"Be steadfast, not careless. Lie not downand sleep, but stand up. Be watchful. Hold fast the liberty wherewith Christhath made you free." Those who loll cannot keep this liberty. Satan hatesthe light of the Gospel. When it begins to shine a little he fights against itwith might and main.
What liberty does Paul mean? Not civil liberty(for which we have the government to thank), but the liberty which Christ hasprocured for us.
At one time the emperor was compelled to grantto the bishop of Rome certain immunities and privileges. This is civil liberty.That liberty exempts the clergy from certain public charges. Then there is alsoanother kind of "liberty," when people obey neither the laws of Godnor the laws of men, but do as they please. This carnal liberty the people wantin our day. We are not now speaking of this liberty. Neither are we speaking ofcivil liberty.
Paul is speaking of a far better liberty, theliberty "wherewith Christ hath made us free," not from material bonds,not from the Babylonian captivity, not from the tyranny of the Turks, but fromthe eternal wrath of God.
Where is this liberty?
In the conscience.
Our conscience is free and quiet because it nolonger has to fear the wrath of God. This is real liberty, compared with which every other kind of liberty is not worth mentioning. Who canadequately express the boon that comes to a person when he has theheart-assurance that God will nevermore be angry with him, but will forever bemerciful to him for Christ's sake? This is indeed a marvelous liberty, to havethe sovereign God for our Friend and Father who will defend, maintain, and saveus in this life and in the life to come.
As an outgrowth of this liberty, we are at thesame time free from the Law, sin, death, the power of the devil, hell, etc.Since the wrath of God has been assuaged by Christ no Law, sin, or death may nowaccuse and condemn us. These foes of ours will continue to frighten us, but nottoo much. The worth of our Christian liberty cannot be exaggerated.
Our conscience must he trained to fall back onthe freedom purchased for us by Christ. Though the fears of the Law, the terrorsof sin, the horror of death assail us occasionally, we know that these feelingsshall not endure, because the prophet quotes God as saying: "In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment: but with everlastingkindness will I have mercy on thee." (Isa. 54:8.)
We shall appreciate this liberty all the morewhen we bear in mind that it was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who purchased itwith His own blood. Hence, Christ's liberty is given us not by the Law, or forour own righteousness, but freely for Christ's sake. In the eighth chapter ofthe Gospel of St. John, Jesus declares: "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." He only stands between us and the evils which trouble and afflict us andwhich He has overcome for us.
Reason cannot properly evaluate this gift. Whocan fully appreciate the blessing of the forgiveness of sins and of everlastinglife? Our opponents claim that they also possess this liberty. But they do not.When they are put to the test all their self-confidence slips from them. Whatelse can they expect when they trust in works and not in the Word of God?
Our liberty is founded on Christ Himself, who sits at the right hand of God andintercedes for us. Therefore our liberty is sure and valid as long as we believein Christ. As long as we cling to Him with a steadfast faith we possess Hispriceless gifts. But if we are careless and indifferent we shall lose them. Itis not without good reason that Paul urges us to watch and to stand fast. Heknew that the devil delights in taking this liberty away from us.
VERSE 1.Andbe not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
Because reason prefers the righteousness ofthe Law to the righteousness of faith, Paul calls the Law a yoke, a yoke ofbondage. Peter also calls it a yoke. "Why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither ourfathers nor we were able to bear?" (Acts 15:10.)
In this passage Paul again disparages thepernicious notion that the Law is able to make men righteous before God, anotion deeply rooted in man's reason. All mankind is so wrapped up in this ideathat it is hard to drag it out of people. Paul compares those who seek to bejustified by the Law to oxen that are hitched to the yoke. Like oxen that toilin the yoke all day, and in the evening are turned out to graze along the dustyroad, and at last are marked for slaughter when they no longer can draw theburden, so those who seek to be justified by the Law are "entangled withthe yoke of bondage," and when they have grown old and broken-down in theservice of the Law they have earned for their perpetual reward God's wrath andeverlasting torment.
We are not now treating of an unimportantmatter. It is a matter that involves everlasting liberty or everlasting slavery.For as a liberation from God's wrath through the kind office of Christ is not apassing boon, but a permanent blessing, so also the yoke of the Law is not atemporary but an everlasting affliction.
Rightly are the doors of the Law called devil's martyrs. They take more pains toearn hell than the martyrs of Christ to obtain heaven. Theirs is a doublemisfortune. First they torture themselves on earth with self- inflicted penancesand finally when they die they gain the reward of eternal damnation.
VERSE 2.Behold,I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
Paul is incensed at the thought of the tyrannyof the Law. His antagonism to the Law is a personal matter with him."Behold, I, Paul," he says, "I who have received the Gospel notfrom men, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ: I who have been commissionedfrom above to preach the Gospel to you: I Paul say to you, If you submit tocircumcision Christ will profit you nothing." Paul emphatically declaresthat for the Galatians to be circumcised would mean for them to lose thebenefits of Christ's suffering and death. This passage may well serve as acriterion for all the religions. To teach that besides faith in Christ otherdevices like works, or the observance of rules, traditions, or ceremonies arenecessary for the attainment of righteousness and everlasting life, is to makeChrist and His salvation of no benefit to anybody.
This passage is an indictment of the wholepapacy. All priests, monks, and nuns--and I am now speaking of the best ofthem--who repose their hope for salvation in their own works, and not in Christ,whom they imagine to he an angry judge, hear this sentence pronounced againstthem that Christ shall profit them nothing. If one can earn the forgiveness ofsins and everlasting life through one's own efforts to what purpose was Christborn? What was the purpose of His suffering and death, His resurrection, Hisvictory over sin, death, and the devil, if men may overcome these evils by theirown endeavor? Tongue cannot express, nor heart conceive what a terrible thing itis to make Christ worthless.
The person who is not moved by these considerations to leave the Law and theconfidence in his own righteousness for the liberty in Christ, has a heart thatis harder than stone and iron.
Paul does not condemn circumcision in itself.Circumcision is not injurious to the person who does not ascribe any particularimportance to it. Neither are works injurious provided a person does not attachany saving value to them. The Apostle does not say that works are objectionable,but to build one's hopes for righteousness on works is disastrous, for thatmakes Christ good for nothing.
Let us bear this in mind when the devilaccuses our conscience. When that dragon accuses us of having done no good atall, but only evil, say to him: "You trouble me with the remembrance of mypast sins; you remind me that I have done no good. But this does not bother me,because if I were to trust in my own good deeds, or despair because I have doneno good deeds, Christ would profit me neither way. I am not going to make himunprofitable to me. This I would do, if I should presume to purchase for myselfthe favor of God and everlasting life by my good deeds, or if I should despairof my salvation because of my sins."
VERSE 3.ForI testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do thewhole law.
The first fault with circumcision is that itmakes Christ unprofitable. The second fault is that it obligates those who arecircumcised to observe the whole Law. Paul is so very much in earnest about thismatter that he confirms it with an oath. "I testify," he says, "Iswear by the living God." Paul's statement may be explained negatively tomean: "I testify to every man who is being circumcised that he cannotperform the Law in any point. In the very act of circumcision he is not beingcircumcised, and in the very act of fulfilling the Law he fulfills it not."This seems to be the simple meaning of Paul's statement. Later on in the sixthchapter he explicitly states, "They themselves which are circumcised keepnot the law. The fact that you are circumcised does not mean you are righteousand free from the Law. The truth is that by circumcision you have become debtorsand servants of the Law. The more you endeavor to perform the Law, the more youwill become tangled up in the yoke of the Law."
The truth of this I have experienced in myselfand in others. I have seen many work themselves down to the bones in theirhungry effort to obtain peace of conscience. But the harder they tried the morethey worried. Especially in the presence of death they were so uneasy that Ihave seen murderers die with better grace and courage.
This holds true also in regard to the churchregulations. When I was a monk I tried ever so hard to live up to the strictrules of my order. I used to make a list of my sins, and I was always on the wayto confession, and whatever penances were enjoined upon me I performedreligiously. In spite of it all, my conscience was always in a fever of doubt.The more I sought to help my poor stricken conscience the worse it got. The moreI paid attention to the regulations the more I transgressed them.
Hence those that seek to be justified by theLaw are much further away from the righteousness of life than the publicans,sinners, and harlots. They know better than to trust in their own works. Theyknow that they cannot ever hope to obtain forgiveness by their sins.
Paul's statement in this verse may be taken tomean that those who submit to circumcision are thereby submitting to the wholeLaw. To obey Moses in one point requires obedience to him in all points. It doesno good to say that only circumcision is necessary, and not the rest of Moses'laws. The same reasons that obligate a person to accept circumcision alsoobligate a person to accept the whole Law. Thus to acknowledge the Law istantamount to declaring that Christ is not yet come. And if Christ is not yetcome, then all the Jewish ceremonies and laws concerning meats, places, and times are still in force, and Christ must be awaited as onewho is still to come. The whole Scripture, however, testifies that Christ hascome, that by His death He has abolished the Law, and that He has fulfilled allthings which the prophets have foretold about Him.
Some would like to subjugate us to certainparts of the Mosaic Law. But this is not to be permitted under anycircumstances. If we permit Moses to rule over us in one thing, we must obey himin all things.
VERSE 4.Christis become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; yeare fallen from grace.
Paul in this verse discloses that he is notspeaking so much of circumcision as the trust which men repose in the outwardact. We can hear him say: "I do not condemn the Law in itself; what Icondemn is that men seek to be justified by the Law, as if Christ were still tocome, or as if He alone were unable to justify sinners. It is this that Icondemn, because it makes Christ of no effect. It makes you void of Christ sothat Christ is not in you, nor can you be partakers of the knowledge, thespirit, the fellowship, the liberty, the life, or the achievements of Christ.You are completely separated from Him, so much so that He has nothing to do withyou any more, or for that matter you with Him." Can anything worse be saidagainst the Law? If you think Christ and the Law can dwell together in yourheart, you may be sure that Christ dwells not in your heart. For if Christ is inyour heart He neither condemns you, nor does He ever bid you to trust in yourown good works. If you know Christ at all, you know that good works do not serveunto righteousness, nor evil works unto condemnation. I do not want to withholdfrom good works their due praise, nor do I wish to encourage evil works. Butwhen it comes to justification, I say, we must concentrate upon Christ alone, orelse we make Him non-effective. You must choose between Christ and therighteousness of the Law. If you choose Christ you are righteous before God. If you stick to theLaw, Christ is of no use to you.
VERSE 4.Yeare fallen from grace.
That means you are no longer in the kingdom orcondition of grace. When a person on board ship falls into the sea and isdrowned it makes no difference from which end or side of the ship he falls intothe water. Those who fall from grace perish no matter how they go about it.Those who seek to be justified by the Law are fallen from grace and are in gravedanger of eternal death. If this holds true in the case of those who seek to bejustified by the moral Law, what will become of those, I should like to know,who endeavor to be justified by their own regulations and vows? They will fallto the very bottom of hell. "Oh, no," they say, "we will flystraight into heaven. If you live according to the rules of SaintFrancis, Saint Dominick, SaintBenedict, you will obtain the peace and mercy of God. If you perform thevows of chastity, obedience, etc., you will be rewarded with everlastinglife." Let these playthings of the devil go to the place where they camefrom and listen to what Paul has to say in this verse in accordance withChrist's own teaching: "He that believeth in the Son of God, hatheverlasting life; but he that believeth not in the Son shall not see life, butthe wrath of God abideth in him."
The words, "Ye are fallen fromgrace," must not be taken lightly. They are important. To fall from gracemeans to lose the atonement, the forgiveness of sins, the righteousness,liberty, and life which Jesus has merited for us by His death and resurrection.To lose the grace of God means to gain the wrath and judgment of God, death, thebondage of the devil, and everlasting condemnation.
VERSE 5.Forwe through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
Paul concludes the whole matter with the abovestatement. "You want to be justified by the Law, by circumcision, and byworks. We cannot see it. To be justified by such means would make Christ of no value to us. We would be obliged to performthe whole law. We rather through the Spirit wait for the hope ofrighteousness." The Apostle is not satisfied to say "justified byfaith." He adds hope to faith.
Holy Writ speaks of hope in two ways: as theobject of the emotion, and hope as the emotion itself. In the first chapter ofthe Epistle to the Colossians we have an instance of its first use: "Forthe hope which is laid up for you in heaven," i.e., the thing hoped for. Inthe sense of emotion we quote the passage from the eighth chapter of the Epistleto the Romans: "For we are saved by hope." As Paul uses the term"hope" here in writing to the Galatians, we may take it in either ofits two meanings. We may understand Paul to say, "We wait in spirit,through faith, for the righteousness that we hope for, which in due time will berevealed to us." Or we may understand Paul to say: "We wait in Spirit,by faith for righteousness with great hope and desire." True, we arerighteous, but our righteousness is not yet revealed; as long as we live heresin stays with us, not to forget the law in our members striving against the lawof our mind. When sin rages in our body and we through the Spirit wrestleagainst it, then we have cause for hope. We are not yet perfectly righteous.Perfect righteousness is still to be attained. Hence we hope for it.
This is sweet comfort for us. And we are tomake use of it in comforting the afflicted. We are to say to them:"Brother, you would like to feel God's favor as you feel your sin. But youare asking too much. Your righteousness rests on something much better thanfeelings. Wait and hope until it will be revealed to you in the Lord's own time.Don't go by your feelings, but go by the doctrine of faith, which pledges Christto you."
The question occurs to us, What difference isthere between faith and hope? We find it difficult to see any difference. Faithand hope are so closely linked that they cannot be separated. Still there is adifference between them.
First, hope and faith differ in regard to their sources. Faith originates in theunderstanding, while hope rises in the will.
Secondly, they differ in regard to theirfunctions. Faith says what is to be done. Faith teaches, describes, directs.Hope exhorts the mind to be strong and courageous.
Thirdly, they differ in regard to theirobjectives. Faith concentrates on the truth. Hope looks to the goodness of God.
Fifthly, they differ in regard to theireffects. Faith is a judge. It judges errors. Hope is a soldier. It fightsagainst tribulations, the Cross, despondency, despair, and waits for betterthings to come in the midst of evil.
Without hope faith cannot endure. On the otherhand, hope without faith is blind rashness and arrogance because it lacksknowledge. Before anything else a Christian must have the insight of faith, sothat the intellect may know its directions in the day of trouble and the heartmay hope for better things. By faith we begin, by hope we continue.
This passage contains excellent doctrine andmuch comfort. It declares that we are justified not by works, sacrifices, orceremonies, but by Christ alone. The world may judge certain things to be everso good; without Christ they are all wrong. Circumcision and the law and goodworks are carnal. "We," says Paul, "are above such things. Wepossess Christ by faith and in the midst of our afflictions we hopefully waitfor the consummation of our righteousness."
You may say, "The trouble is I don't feelas if I am righteous." You must not feel, but believe. Unless you believethat you are righteous, you do Christ a great wrong, for He has cleansed you bythe washing of regeneration, He died for you so that through Him you may obtainrighteousness and everlasting life.
VERSE 6.For in Jesus Christ neithercircumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh bylove.
Faith must of course be sincere. It must be afaith that performs good works through love. If faith lacks love it is not truefaith. Thus the Apostle bars the way of hypocrites to the kingdom of Christ onall sides. He declares on the one hand, "In Christ Jesus circumcisionavaileth nothing," i.e., works avail nothing, but faith alone, and thatwithout any merit whatever, avails before God. On the other hand, the Apostledeclares that without fruits faith serves no purpose. To think, "If faithjustifies without works, let us work nothing," is to despise the grace ofGod. Idle faith is not justifying faith. In this terse manner Paul presents thewhole life of a Christian. Inwardly it consists in faith towards God, outwardlyin love towards our fellow-men.
VERSE 7.Yedid run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?
This is plain speaking. Paul asserts that heteaches the same truth now which he has always taught, and that the Galatiansran well as long as they obeyed the truth. But now, misled by the falseapostles, they no longer run. He compares the Christian life to a race. Wheneverything runs along smoothly the Hebrews spoke of it as a race. "Ye didrun well," means that everything went along smoothly and happily with theGalatians. They lived a Christian life and were on the right way to everlastinglife. The words, "Ye did run well," are encouraging indeed. Often ourlives seem to creep rather than to run. But if we abide in the true doctrine andwalk in the spirit, we have nothing to worry about. God judges our livesdifferently. What may seem to us a life slow in Christian development may seemto God a life of rapid progression in grace.
VERSE 7.Who did hinder you that ye shouldnot obey the truth?
The Galatians were hindered in the Christianlife when they turned from faith and grace to the Law. Covertly the Apostleblames the false apostles for impeding the Christian progress of the Galatians.The false apostles persuaded the Galatians to believe that they were in errorand that they had made little or no progress under the influence of Paul. Underthe baneful influence of the false apostles the Galatians thought they were welloff and advancing rapidly in Christian knowledge and living.
VERSE 8.Thispersuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.
Paul explains how those who had been deceivedby false teachers may be restored to spiritual health. The false apostles wereamiable fellows. Apparently they surpassed Paul in learning and godliness. TheGalatians were easily deceived by outward appearances. They supposed they werebeing taught by Christ Himself. Paul proved to them that their new doctrine wasnot of Christ, but of the devil. In this way he succeeded in regaining many. Wealso are able to win back many from the errors into which they were seduced byshowing that their beliefs are imaginary, wicked, and contrary to the Word ofGod.
The devil is a cunning persuader. He knows howto enlarge the smallest sin into a mountain until we think we have committed theworst crime ever committed on earth. Such stricken consciences must be comfortedand set straight as Paul corrected the Galatians by showing them that theiropinion is not of Christ because it runs counter to the Gospel, which describesChrist as a meek and merciful Savior.
Satan will circumvent the Gospel and explainChrist in this his own diabolical way: "Indeed Christ is meek, gentle, andmerciful, but only to those who are holy and righteous. If you are a sinner youstand no chance. Did not Christ say that unbelievers are already damned? And did not Christ perform many good deeds, and suffer many evils patiently, biddingus to follow His example? You do not mean to say that your life is in accordwith Christ's precepts or example? You are a sinner. You are no good atall."
Satan is to be answered in this way: TheScriptures present Christ in a twofold aspect. First, as a gift. "He of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification andredemption." (I Cor. 1:30.) Hence my many and grievous sins are nullified if Ibelieve in Him. Secondly, the Scriptures present Christ for our example. As anexemplar He is to be placed before me only at certain times. In times of joy andgladness that l may have Him as a mirror to reflect upon my shortcomings. But inthe day of trouble I will have Christ only as a gift. I will not listen toanything else, except that Christ died for my sins.
To those that are cast down on account oftheir sins Christ must be introduced as a Savior and Gift, and not as anexample. But to sinners who live in a false assurance, Christ must be introducedas an example. The hard sayings of Scripture and the awful judgments of God uponsin must be impressed upon them. Defy Satan in times of despair. Say: "Ocursed Satan, you choose a nice time to talk to me about doing and working whenyou know very well that I am in trouble over my sins. I will not listen to you.I will listen to Christ, who says that He came into the world to save sinners.This is the true Christ and there is none other. I can find plenty of examplesfor a holy life in Abraham, Isaiah, John the Baptist, Paul, and other saints.But they cannot forgive my sins. They cannot save me. They cannot procure for meeverlasting life. Therefore I will not have you for my teacher, O Satan."
VERSE 9.Alittle leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
Paul's concern for them meant nothing to someof the Galatians. Many had disowned him as their teacher and gone over to the false apostles. No doubt the false apostles took every occasionto defame Paul as a stubborn and contemptuous fellow who thought nothing ofdisrupting the unity of the churches for no other reason than his selfish prideand jealousy.
Others of the Galatians perhaps saw no harmin deviating a trifle from the doctrine of justification and faith. When theynoticed that Paul made so much ado about a matter that seemed of no particularimportance to them they raised their eyebrows and thought within themselves:"What if we did deviate a little from the doctrine of Paul? What if we area little to blame? He ought to overlook the whole matter, and not make such anissue out of it, lest the unity of the churches be disturbed." To this Paulreplies: "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump."
Our opponents record the same complaintsabout us. They put us down as contentious, ill-tempered faultfinders. But theseare the crafty passes of the devil, with which he seeks to overthrow our faith.We answer with Paul: "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump."
Small faults grow into big faults. Totolerate a trifling error inevitably leads to crass heresy. The doctrine of theBible is not ours to take or to allow liberties with. We have no right to changeeven a tittle of it. When it comes to life we are ready to do, to suffer, toforgive anything our opponents demand as long as faith and doctrine remain pureand uncorrupt. The Apostle James says, "For whosoever shall keep the wholelaw and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." This passagesupports us over against our critics who claim that we disregard all charity tothe great injury of the churches. We protest we desire nothing more than peacewith all men. If they would only permit us to keep our doctrine of faith! Thepure doctrine takes precedence before charity, apostles, or an angel fromheaven.
Let others praise charity and concord to theskies; we magnify the authority of the Word and faith. Charity may be neglectedat times without peril, but not the Word and faith. Charity suffers all things,it gives in. Faith suffers nothing; it never yields. Charity is often deceived but is never put outbecause it lies nothing to lose; it continues to do well even to the ungrateful.When it comes to faith and salvation in the midst of lies and errors that paradeas truth and deceive many, charity has no voice or vote. Let us not beinfluenced by the popular cry for charity and unity. If we do not love God andHis Word what difference does it make if we love anything at all?
Paul, therefore, admonishes both teachers andhearers not to esteem lightly the doctrine of faith as if it were a toy withwhich to amuse oneself in idle hours.
VERSE 10.lhave confidence in you through the Lord.
"I have taught, admonished, and reprovedyou enough. I hope the best for you."
The question occurs to us whether Paul didwell to trust the Galatians. Does not Holy Writ forbid us to trust in men? Faithtrusts in God and is never wrong. Charity trusts in men and is often wrong. Thischaritable trust in man is necessary to life. Without it life would beimpossible in the world. What kind of life would ours be if nobody could trustanybody else? True Christians are more ready to believe in men than the childrenof this world. Such charitable confidence is the fruit of the Spirit. Paul hadsuch trust in the Galatians although they had forsaken his doctrine. He truststhem "through the Lord," insofar as they were in Christ and Christ inthem. Once they had forsaken Christ altogether, the Apostle will trust theGalatians no longer.
VERSE 10.Thatye will be none otherwise minded.
"Not minded otherwise than I have taughtyou. In other words, I have confidence that you will accept no doctrine that iscontrary to the one you have learned from me."
VERSE 10.Butbe that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.
Paul assumes the role of a judge and condemnsthe false apostles as troublers of the Galatians. He wants to frighten the Galatians with his severe judgments of the false apostles intoavoiding false doctrine like a contagious disease. We can hear him say to theGalatians: "Why do you give these pestilent fellows a hearing in the firstplace? They only trouble you. The doctrine they bring causes your conscienceonly trouble."
The clause, "whosoever he be,"seems to indicate that the false apostles in outward appearance at least werevery good and devout men. It may be that among them was some outstandingdisciple of the apostles, a man of fame and authority. The Apostle must havebeen faced by this very situation, otherwise his vehemence would have beenuncalled for. No doubt many of the Galatians were taken back with the vehemencyof the Apostle. They perhaps thought: why should he be so stubborn in such smallmatters? Why is he so quick to pronounce damnation upon his brethren in theministry?
I cannot say it often enough, that we mustcarefully differentiate between doctrine and life. Doctrine is a piece ofheaven, life is a piece of earth. Life is sin, error, uncleanness, misery, andcharity must forbear, believe, hope, and suffer all things. Forgiveness of sinsmust be continuous so that sin and error may not be defended and sustained. Butwith doctrine there must be no error, no need of pardon. There can be nocomparison between doctrine and life. The least little point of doctrine is ofgreater importance than heaven and earth. Therefore we cannot allow the leastjot of doctrine to be corrupted. We may overlook the offenses and errors oflife, for we daily sin much. Even the saints sin, as they themselves confess inthe Lord's Prayer and in the Creed. But our doctrine, God be praised, is pure,because all the articles of our faith are grounded on the Holy Scriptures.
VERSE 11.AndI, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? thenis the offense of the cross ceased.
In his great desire to recall the Galatians,Paul draws himself into the argument. He says: "Because I refuse torecognize circumcision as a factor in our salvation, I have brought upon myselfthe hatred and persecution of my whole nation. If I were to acknowledgecircumcision the Jews would cease to persecute me; in fact they would love andpraise me. But because I preach the Gospel of Christ and the righteousness offaith I must suffer persecution. The false apostles know how to avoid the Crossand the deadly hatred of the Jewish nation. They preach circumcision and thusretain the favor of the Jews. If they had their way they would ignore alldifferences in doctrine and preserve unity at all cost. But their unionisticdreams cannot be realized without loss to the pure doctrine of the Cross. Itwould be too bad if the offense of the Cross were to cease." To theCorinthians he expressed the same conviction: "Christ sent me. . .to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest thecross of Christ should be made of none effect." (I Cor. 1:17.)
Here someone may be tempted to call theChristians crazy. Deliberately to court danger by preaching and confessing thetruth, and thus to bring upon ourselves the hatred and enmity of the wholeworld, is this not madness? But Paul does not mind the enmity of the world. Itmade him all the bolder to confess Christ. The enmity of the world in hisestimation augurs well for the success and growth of the Church, which faresbest in times of persecution. When the offense of the Cross ceases, when therage of the enemies of the Cross abates, when everything is quiet, it is a signthat the devil is the door-keeper of the Church and that the pure doctrine ofGod's Word has been lost.
SaintBernard observed that the Church is in best shape when Satan assaults iton every side by trickery and violence; and in worst shape when it is at peace.In support of his statement he quotes the passage from the song of Hezekiah:"Behold, for peace I had great bitterness." Paul looks with suspicionupon any doctrine that does not provoke antagonism.
Persecution always follows on the heels of the Word of God as the Psalmistexperienced. "I believe, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted." (Ps. 116:10.) The Christians are accused and slandered without mercy.Murderers and thieves receive better treatment than Christians. The worldregards true Christians as the worst offenders, for whom no punishment can betoo severe. The world hates the Christians with amazing brutality, and withoutcompunction commits them to the most shameful death, congratulating itself thatit has rendered God and the cause of peace a distinct service by ridding theworld of the undesired presence of these Christians. We are not to let suchtreatment cause us to falter in our adherence to Christ. As long as weexperience such persecutions we know all is well with the Gospel.
Jesus held out the same comfort to Hisdisciples in the fifth chapter of St. Matthew. "Blessed are ye, when menshall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against youfalsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your rewardin heaven." The Church must not come short of this joy. I would not want tobe at peace with the pope, the bishops, the princes, and the sectarians, unlessthey consent to our doctrine. Unity with them would be an unmistakable sign thatwe have lost the true doctrine. Briefly, as long as the Church proclaims thedoctrine she must suffer persecution, because the Gospel declares the mercy andglory of God. This in turn stirs up the devil, because the Gospel shows him upfor what he is, the devil, and not God. Therefore as long as the Gospel holdssway persecution plays the accompaniment, or else there is something the matterwith the devil. When he is hit you will know it by the havoc he raiseseverywhere.
So do not be surprised or offended when hellbreaks loose. Look upon it as a happy indication that all is well with theGospel of the Cross. God forbid that the offense of the Cross should ever beremoved. This would be the case if we were to preach what the prince of thisworld and his followers would be only too glad to hear, the righteousness of works.You would never know the devil could be so gentle, the world so sweet, the Popeso gracious, and the princes so charming. But because we seek the advantage andhonor of Christ, they persecute us all around.
VERSE 12.Iwould they were even cut off which trouble you.
It hardly seems befitting an apostle, notonly to denounce the false apostles as troublers of the Church, and to consignthem to the devil, but also to wish that they were utterly cut off--what elsewould you call it but plain cursing? Paul, I suppose, is alluding to the rite ofcircumcision. As if he were saying to the Galatians: "The false apostlescompel you to cut off the foreskin of your flesh. Well, I wish they themselveswere utterly cut off by the roots."
We had better answer at once the question,whether it is right for Christians to curse. Certainly not always, nor for everylittle cause. But when things have come to such a pass that God and His Word areopenly blasphemed, then we must say: "Blessed be God and His Word, andcursed be everything that is contrary to God and His Word, even though it shouldbe an apostle, or an angel from heaven."
This goes to show again how much importancePaul attached to the least points of Christian doctrine, that he dared to cursethe false apostles, evidently men of great popularity and influence. What right,then, have we to make little of doctrine? No matter how nonessential a point ofdoctrine may seem, if slighted it may prove the gradual disintegration of thetruths of our salvation.
Let us do everything to advance the glory andauthority of God's Word. Every tittle of it is greater than heaven and earth.Christian charity and unity have nothing to do with the Word of God. We are boldto curse and condemn all men who in the least point corrupt the Word of God,"for a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump."
Paul does right to curse these troublers of the Galatians, wishing that theywere cut off and rooted out of the Church of God and that their doctrine mightperish forever. Such cursing is the gift of the Holy Ghost. Thus Peter cursedSimon the sorcerer, "Thy money perish with thee." Many instances ofthis holy cursing are recorded in the sacred Scriptures, especially in thePsalms, e.g., "Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell." (Ps. 55:15.)
THE DOCTRINE OF GOOD WORKS
Now come all kinds of admonitions andprecepts. It was the custom of the apostles that after they had taught faith andinstructed the conscience they followed it up with admonitions unto good works,that the believers might manifest the duties of love toward each other. In orderto avoid the appearance as if Christianity militated against good works oropposed civil government, the Apostle also urges us to give ourselves unto goodworks, to lead an honest life, and to keep faith and love with one another. Thiswill give the lie to the accusations of the world that we Christians are theenemies of decency and of public peace. The fact is we Christians know betterwhat constitutes a truly good work than all the philosophers and legislators ofthe world because we link believing with doing.
VERSE 13.For,brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasionto the flesh, but by love serve one another.
In other words: "You have gained libertythrough Christ, i.e., You are above all laws as far as conscience is concerned.You are saved. Christ is your liberty and life. Therefore law, sin, and deathmay not hurt you or drive you to despair. This is the constitution of yourpriceless liberty. Now take care that you do not use your wonderful liberty foran occasion of the flesh."
Satan likes to turn this liberty which Christ has gotten for us intolicentiousness. Already the Apostle Jude complained in his day: "There are certain men crept in unawares. . .turning the grace of our God intolasciviousness." (Jude 4.) The flesh reasons: "If we are without the law, we may aswell indulge ourselves. Why do good, why give alms, why suffer evil when thereis no law to force us to do so?"
This attitude is common enough. People talkabout Christian liberty and then go and cater to the desires of covetousness,pleasure, pride, envy, and other vices. Nobody wants to fulfill his duties.Nobody wants to help out a brother in distress. This sort of thing makes me soimpatient at times that I wish the swine who trampled precious pearls under footwere back once again under the tyranny of the Pope. You cannot wake up thepeople of Gomorrah with the gospel of peace.
Even we creatures of the world do not performour duties as zealously in the light of the Gospel as we did before in thedarkness of ignorance, because the surer we are of the liberty purchased for usby Christ, the more we neglect the Word, prayer, well-doing, and suffering. IfSatan were not continually molesting us with trials, with the persecution of ourenemies, and the ingratitude of our brethren, we would become so careless andindifferent to all good works that in time we would lose our faith in Christ,resign the ministry of the Word, and look for an easier life. Many of ourministers are beginning to do that very thing. They complain about the ministry,they maintain they cannot live on their salaries, they whimper about themiserable treatment they receive at the hand of those whom they delivered fromthe servitude of the law by the preaching of the Gospel. These ministers desertour poor and maligned Christ, involve themselves in the affairs of the world,seek advantages for themselves and not for Christ. With what results they shallpresently find out.
Since the devil lies in ambush for those inparticular who hate the world, and seeks to deprive us of our liberty of the spirit or to brutalize it into the liberty of the flesh, we plead withour brethren after the manner of Paul, that they may never use this liberty ofthe spirit purchased for us by Christ as an excuse for carnal living, or asPeter expresses it, I Peter 2:16, "for a cloak of maliciousness."
In order that Christians may not abuse theirliberty the Apostle encumbers them with the rule of mutual love that they shouldserve each other in love. Let everybody perform the duties of his station andvocation diligently and help his neighbor to the limit of his capacity.
Christians are glad to hear and obey thisteaching of love. When others hear about this Christian liberty of ours they atonce infer, "If I am free, I may do what I like. If salvation is not amatter of doing why should we do anything for the poor?" In this crudemanner they turn the liberty of the spirit into wantonness and licentiousness.We want them to know, however, that if they use their lives and possessionsafter their own pleasure, if they do not help the poor, if they cheat theirfellow-men in business and snatch and scrape by hook and by crook everythingthey can lay their hands on, we want to tell them that they are not free, nomatter how much they think they are, but they are the dirty slaves of the devil,and are seven times worse than they ever were as the slaves of the Pope.
As for us, we are obliged to preach theGospel which offers to all men liberty from the Law, sin, death, and God'swrath. We have no right to conceal or revoke this liberty proclaimed by theGospel. And so we cannot do anything with the swine who dive headlong into thefilth of licentiousness. We do what we can, we diligently admonish them to loveand to help their fellow-men. If our admonitions bear no fruit, we leave them toGod, who will in His own good time take care of these disrespecters of Hisgoodness. In the meanwhile we comfort ourselves with the thought that our laborsare not lost upon the true believers. They appreciate this spiritual liberty andstand ready to serve others in love and, though their number is small, the satisfaction they give us far outweighs the discouragement which wereceive at the hands of the large number of those who misuse this liberty.
Paul cannot possibly be misunderstood for hesays: "Brethren, ye have been called unto liberty." In order thatnobody might mistake the liberty of which he speaks for the liberty of theflesh, the Apostle adds the explanatory note, "only use not liberty for anoccasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another." Paul now explains atthe hand of the Ten Commandments what it means to serve one another in love.
VERSE 14.For all thelaw is fulfilled in one word, even in this, thou shalt love thy neighbour asthyself.
It is customary with Paul to lay thedoctrinal foundation first and then to build on it the gold, silver, and gems ofgood deeds. Now there is no other foundation than Jesus Christ. Upon thisfoundation the Apostle erects the structure of good works which he defines inthis one sentence: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
In adding such precepts of love the Apostleembarrasses the false apostles very much, as if he were saying to the Galatians:"I have described to you what spiritual life is. Now I will also teach youwhat truly good works are. I am doing this in order that you may understand thatthe silly ceremonies of which the false apostles make so much are far inferiorto the works of Christian love." This is the hall-mark of all falseteachers, that they not only pervert the pure doctrine but also fail in doinggood. Their foundation vitiated, they can only build wood, hay, and stubble.Oddly enough, the false apostles who were such earnest champions of good worksnever required the work of charity, such as Christian love and the practicalcharity of a helpful tongue, hand, and heart. Their only requirement was thatcircumcision, days, months, years, and times should be observed. They could notthink of any other good works.
The Apostle exhorts all Christians to practice good works after they haveembraced the pure doctrine of faith, because even though they have beenjustified they still have the old flesh to refrain them from doing good.Therefore it becomes necessary that sincere preachers cultivate the doctrine ofgood works as diligently as the doctrine of faith, for Satan is a deadly enemyof both. Nevertheless faith must come first because without faith it isimpossible to know what a God-pleasing deed is.
Let nobody think that he knows all about thiscommandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." It soundsshort and easy, but show me the man who can teach, learn, and do thiscommandment perfectly. None of us heed, or urge, or practice this commandmentproperly. Though the conscience hurts when we fail to fulfill this commandmentin every respect we are not overwhelmed by our failure to bear our neighborsincere and brotherly love.
The words, "for all the law is fulfilledin one word," entail a criticism of the Galatians. "You are so takenup by your superstitions and ceremonies that serve no good purpose, that youneglect the most important thing, love." St. Jerome says: "We wear ourbodies out with watching, fasting, and labor and neglect charity, the queen ofall good works." Look at the monks, who meticulously fast, watch, etc. Toskip the least requirement of their order would be a crime of the firstmagnitude. At the same time they blithely ignored the duties of charity andhated each other to death. That is no sin, they think.
The Old Testament is replete with examplesthat indicate how much God prizes charity. When David and his companions had nofood with which to still their hunger they ate the showbread which lay-peoplewere forbidden to eat. Christ's disciples broke the Sabbath law when theyplucked the ears of corn. Christ himself broke the Sabbath (as the Jews claimed)by healing the sick on the Sabbath. These incidents indicate that love ought tobe given consideration above all laws and ceremonies.
VERSE 14.For all the Law is fulfilled in one word.
We can imagine the Apostle saying to theGalatians: "Why do you get so worked up over ceremonies, meats, days,places, and such things? Leave off this foolishness and listen to me. The wholeLaw is comprehended in this one sentence, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour asthyself.' God is not particularly interested in ceremonies, nor has He any usefor them. The one thing He requires of you is that you believe in Christ whom Hehath sent. If in addition to faith, which comes first as the most acceptableservice unto God, you want to add laws, then you want to know that all laws arecomprehended in this short commandment, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour asthyself.' "
Paul knows how to explain the law of God. Hecondenses all the laws of Moses into one brief sentence. Reason takes offense atthe brevity with which Paul treats the Law. Therefore reason looks down upon thedoctrine of faith and its truly good works. To serve one another in love, i.e.,to instruct the erring, to comfort the afflicted, to raise the fallen, to helpone's neighbor in every possible way, to bear with his infirmities, to endurehardships, toil, ingratitude in the Church and in the world, and on the otherhand to obey government, to honor one's parents, to be patient at home with anagging wife and an unruly family, these things are not at all regarded as goodworks. The fact is, they are such excellent works that the world cannot possiblyestimate them at their true value.
It is tersely spoken: "Love thyneighbour as thyself." But what more needs to be said? You cannot find abetter or nearer example than your own. If you want to know how you ought tolove your neighbor, ask yourself how much you love yourself. If you were to getinto trouble or danger, you would be glad to have the love and help of all men.You do not need any book of instructions to teach you how to love your neighbor.All you have to do is to look into your own heart, and it will tell you how youought to love your neighbor as yourself.
My neighbor is every person, especially those who need my help, as Christexplained in the tenth chapter of Luke. Even if a person has done me some wrong,or has hurt me in any way, he is still a human being with flesh and blood. Aslong as a person remains a human being, so long is he to be an object of ourlove.
Paul therefore urges his Galatians and,incidentally, all believers to serve each other in love. "You Galatians donot have to accept circumcision. If you are so anxious to do good works, I willtell you in one word how you can fulfill all laws. 'By love serve one another.'You will never lack people to whom you may do good. The world is full of peoplewho need your help."
VERSE 15.But if yebite and devour one another take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
When faith in Christ is overthrown peace andunity come to an end in the church. Diverse opinions and dissensions aboutdoctrine and life spring up, and one member bites and devours the other, i.e.,they condemn each other until they are consumed. To this the Scriptures and theexperience of all times bear witness. The many sects at present have come intobeing because one sect condemns the other. When the unity of the spirit has beenlost there can be no agreement in doctrine or life. New errors must appearwithout measure and without end.
For the avoidance of discord Paul lays downthe principle: "Let every person do his duty in the station of life intowhich God has called him. No person is to vaunt himself above others or findfault with the efforts of others while lauding his own. Let everybody serve inlove."
It is not an easy matter to teach faithwithout works, and still to require works. Unless the ministers of Christ arewise in handling the mysteries of God and rightly divide the word, faith andgood works may easily be confused. Both the doctrine of faith and the doctrineof good works must be diligently taught, and yet in such a way that both the doctrines stay within their God-given sphere. If we only teachwords, as our opponents do, we shall lose the faith. If we only teach faithpeople will come to think that good works are superfluous.
VERSE 16.This I saythen, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
"I have not forgotten what I told youabout faith in the first part of my letter. Because I exhort you to mutual loveyou are not to think that I have gone back on my teaching of justification byfaith alone. I am still of the same opinion. To remove every possibility formisunderstanding I have added this explanatory note: 'Walk in the Spirit, and yeshall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.'"
With this verse Paul explains how he wantsthis sentence to be understood: By love serve one another. When I bid you tolove one another, this is what I mean and require, 'Walk in the Spirit.' I knowvery well you will not fulfill the Law, because you are sinners as long as youlive. Nevertheless, you should endeavor to walk in the spirit, i.e., fightagainst the flesh and follow the leads of the Holy Ghost."
It is quite apparent that Paul had notforgotten the doctrine of justification, for in bidding the Galatians to walk inthe Spirit he at the same time denies that good works can justify. "When Ispeak of the fulfilling of the Law I do not mean to say that you are justifiedby the Law. All I mean to say is that you should take the Spirit for your guideand resist the flesh. That is the most you shall ever be able to do. Obey theSpirit and fight against the flesh."
VERSE 16.And yeshall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
The lust of the flesh is not altogetherextinct in us. It rises up again and again and wrestles with the Spirit. Noflesh, not even that of the true believer, is so completely under the influenceof the Spirit that it will not bite or devour, or at least neglect, thecommandment of love. At the slightest provocation it flares up, demands to berevenged , and hates a neighbor like an enemy, or at least does not love him as much ashe ought to be loved.
Therefore the Apostle establishes this ruleof love for the believers. Serve one another in love. Bear the infirmities ofyour brother. Forgive one another. Without such bearing and forbearing, givingand forgiving, there can be no unity because to give and to take offense areunavoidably human.
Whenever you are angry with your brother forany cause, repress your violent emotions through the Spirit. Bear with hisweakness and love him. He does not cease to be your neighbor or brother becausehe offended you. On the contrary, he now more than ever before requires yourloving attention.
The scholastics take the lust of the flesh tomean carnal lust. True, believers too are tempted with carnal lust. Even themarried are not immune to carnal lusts. Men set little value upon that whichthey have and covet what they have not, as the poet says:
"The things most forbidden we alwaysdesire,
And things most denied we seek to acquire."
I do not deny that the lust of the fleshincludes carnal lust. But it takes in more. It takes in all the corrupt desireswith which the believers are more or less infected, as pride, hatred,covetousness, impatience. Later on Paul enumerates among the works of the flesheven idolatry and heresy. The apostle's meaning is clear. "I want you tolove one another. But you do not do it. In fact you cannot do it, because ofyour flesh. Hence we cannot be justified by deeds of love. Do not for a momentthink that I am reversing myself on my stand concerning faith. Faith and hopemust continue. By faith we are justified, by hope we endure to the end. Inaddition we serve each other in love because true faith is not idle. Our love,however, is faulty. In bidding you to walk in the Spirit I indicate to you thatour love is not sufficient to justify us. Neither do I demand that you shouldget rid of the flesh, but that you should control and subdue it."
VERSE 17.For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit and theSpirit against the flesh.
When Paul declares that "the fleshlusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh," he means tosay that we are not to think, speak or do the things to which the flesh incitesus. "I know," he says, "that the flesh courts sin. The thing foryou to do is to resist the flesh by the Spirit. But if you abandon theleadership of the Spirit for that of the flesh, you are going to fulfill thelust of the flesh and die in your sins."
VERSE 17.And theseare contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that yewould.
These two leaders, the flesh and the Spirit,are bitter opponents. Of this opposition the Apostle writes in the seventhchapter of the Epistle to the Romans: "I see another law in my members,warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into the captivity to thelaw of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliverme from the body of this death?"
The scholastics are at a loss to understandthis confession of Paul and feel obliged to save his honor. That the chosenvessel of Christ should have had the law of sin in his members seems to themincredible and absurd. They circumvent the plain-spoken statement of the Apostleby saying that he was speaking for the wicked. But the wicked never complain ofinner conflicts, or of the captivity of sin. Sin has its unrestricted way withthem. This is Paul's very own complaint and the identical complaint of allbelievers.
Paul never denied that he felt the lust ofthe flesh. It is likely that at times he felt even the stirrings of carnal lust,but there is no doubt that he quickly suppressed them. And if at any time hefelt angry or impatient, he resisted these feelings by the Spirit. We are notgoing to stand by idly and see such a comforting statement as this explainedaway. The scholastics, monks, and others of their ilk fought only against carnal lust and were proud of a victory which they neverobtained. In the meanwhile they harbored within their breasts pride, hatred,disdain, self-trust, contempt of the Word of God, disloyalty, blasphemy, andother lusts of the flesh. Against these sins they never fought because theynever took them for sins.
Christ alone can supply us with perfectrighteousness. Therefore we must always believe and always hope in Christ."Whosoever believeth shall not be ashamed." (Rom. 9:33.)
Do not despair if you feel the flesh battlingagainst the Spirit or if you cannot make it behave. For you to follow theguidance of the Spirit in all things without interference on the part of theflesh is impossible. You are doing all you can if you resist the flesh and donot fulfill its demands.
When I was a monk I thought I was lostforever whenever I felt an evil emotion, carnal lust, wrath, hatred, or envy. Itried to quiet my conscience in many ways, but it did not work, because lustwould always come back and give me no rest. I told myself: "You havepermitted this and that sin, envy, impatience, and the like. Your joining thisholy order has been in vain, and all your good works are good for nothing."If at that time I had understood this passage, "The flesh lusteth againstthe Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh," I could have spared myselfmany a day of self- torment. I would have said to myself: "Martin, you willnever be without sin, for you have flesh. Despair not, but resist theflesh."
I remember how Doctor Staupitz used to say tome: "I have promised God a thousand times that I would become a better man,but I never kept my promise. From now on I am not going to make any more vows.Experience has taught me that I cannot keep them. Unless God is merciful to mefor Christ's sake and grants unto me a blessed departure, I shall not be able tostand before Him." His was a God-pleasing despair. No true believer trustsin his own righteousness, but says with David, "Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living bejustified." (Ps. 143:2) Again, "If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?" (Ps. 130:3.)
No man is to despair of salvation justbecause he is aware of the lust of the flesh. Let him be aware of it so long ashe does not yield to it. The passion of lust, wrath, and other vices may shakehim, but they are not to get him down. Sin may assail him, but he is not towelcome it. Yes, the better Christian a man is, the more he will experience theheat of the conflict. This explains the many expressions of regret in the Psalmsand in the entire Bible.
Everybody is to determine his peculiarweakness and guard against it. Watch and wrestle in spirit against yourweakness. Even if you cannot completely overcome it, at least you ought to fightagainst it.
According to this description a saint is notone who is made of wood and never feels any lusts or desires of the flesh. Atrue saint confesses his righteousness and prays that his sins may be forgiven.The whole Church prays for the forgiveness of sins and confesses that itbelieves in the forgiveness of sins. If our antagonists would read theScriptures they would soon discover that they cannot judge rightly of anything,either of sin or of holiness.
VERSE 18.But if yebe led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
Here someone may object: "How come weare not under the law? You yourself say, Paul, that we have the flesh which warsagainst the Spirit, and brings us into subjection."
But Paul says not to let it trouble us. Aslong as we are led by the Spirit, and are willing to obey the Spirit who resiststhe flesh, we are not under the Law. True believers are not under the Law. TheLaw cannot condemn them although they feel sin and confess it.
Great then is the power of the Spirit. Led bythe Spirit, the Law cannot condemn the believer though he commits real sin. For Christ in whom we believe is our righteousness. He is without sin,and the Law cannot accuse Him. As long as we cling to Him we are led by theSpirit and are free from the Law. Even as he teaches good works, the Apostledoes not lose sight of the doctrine of justification, but shows at every turnthat it is impossible for us to be justified by works.
The words, "If ye be led of the Spirit,ye are not under the law," are replete with comfort. It happens at timesthat anger, hatred, impatience, carnal desire, fear, sorrow, or some other lustof the flesh so overwhelms a man that he cannot shake them off, though he tryever so hard. What should he do? Should he despair? God forbid. Let him say tohimself: "My flesh seems to be on a warpath against the Spirit again. Go toit, flesh, and rage all you want to. But you are not going to have your way. Ifollow the leading of the Spirit."
When the flesh begins to cut up the onlyremedy is to take the sword of the Spirit, the word of salvation, and fightagainst the flesh. If you set the Word out of sight, you are helpless againstthe flesh. I know this to be a fact. I have been assailed by many violentpassions, but as soon as I took hold of some Scripture passage, my temptationsleft me. Without the Word I could not have helped myself against the flesh.
VERSE 19.Now the worksof the flesh are manifest, which are these.
Paul is saying: "That none of you mayhide behind the plea of ignorance I will enumerate first the works of the flesh,and then also the works of the Spirit."
There were many hypocrites among theGalatians, as there are also among us, who pretend to be Christians and talkmuch about the Spirit, but they walk not according to the Spirit; ratheraccording to the flesh. Paul is out to show them that they are not as holy asthey like to have others think they are.
Every period of life has its own peculiar temptations. Not one true believerwhom the flesh does not again and again incite to impatience, anger, pride. Butit is one thing to be tempted by the flesh, and another thing to yield to theflesh, to do its bidding without fear or remorse, and to continue in sin.
Christians also fall and perform the lusts ofthe flesh. David fell horribly into adultery. Peter also fell grievously when hedenied Christ. However great these sins were, they were not committed to spiteGod, but from weakness. When their sins were brought to their attention thesemen did not obstinately continue in their sin, but repented. Those who sinthrough weakness are not denied pardon as long as they rise again and cease tosin. There is nothing worse than to continue in sin. If they do not repent, butobstinately continue to fulfill the desires of the flesh, it is a sure sign thatthey are not sincere.
No person is free from temptations. Some aretempted in one way, others in another way. One person is more easily tempted tobitterness and sorrow of spirit, blasphemy, distrust, and despair. Another ismore easily tempted to carnal lust, anger, envy, covetousness. But no matter towhich sins we are disposed, we are to walk in the Spirit and resist the flesh.Those who are Christ's own crucify their flesh.
Some of the old saints labored so hard toattain perfection that they lost the capacity to feel anything. When I was amonk I often wished I could see a saint. I pictured him as living in thewilderness, abstaining from meat and drink and living on roots and herbs andcold water. This weird conception of those awesome saints I had gained out ofthe books of the scholastics and church fathers. But we know now from theScriptures who the true saints are. Not those who live a single life, or make afetish of days, meats, clothes, and such things. The true saints are those whobelieve that they are justified by the death of Christ. Whenever Paul writes tothe Christians here and there he calls them the holy children and heirs of God.All who believe in Christ, whether male or female, bond or free, are saints; not in viewof their own works, but in view of the merits of God which they appropriate byfaith. Their holiness is a gift and not their own personal achievement.
Ministers of the Gospel, public officials,parents, children, masters, servants, etc., are true saints when they takeChrist for their wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, and whenthey fulfill the duties of their several vocations according to the standard ofGod's Word and repress the lust and desires of the flesh by the Spirit. Noteverybody can resist temptations with equal facilities. Imperfections are boundto show up. But this does not prevent them from being holy. Their unintentionallapses are forgiven if they pull themselves together by faith in Christ. Godforbid that we should sit in hasty judgment on those who are weak in faith andlife, as long as they love the Word of God and make use of the supper of theLord.
I thank God that He has permitted me to see(what as a monk I so earnestly desired to see) not one but many saints, wholemultitudes of true saints. Not the kind of saints the papists admire, but thekind of saints Christ wants. I am sure I am one of Christ's true saints. I ambaptized. I believe that Christ my Lord has redeemed me from all my sins, andinvested me with His own eternal righteousness and holiness. To hide in cavesand dens, to have a bony body, to wear the hair long in the mistaken idea thatsuch departures from normalcy will obtain some special regard in heaven is notthe holy life. A holy life is to be baptized and to believe in Christ, and tosubdue the flesh with the Spirit.
To feel the lusts of the flesh is not withoutprofit to us. It prevents us from being vain and from being puffed up with thewicked opinion of our own work-righteousness. The monks were so inflated withthe opinion of their own righteousness, they thought they had so much holinessthat they could afford to sell some of it to others, although their own hearts convinced them of unholiness. The Christian feels the unholycondition of his heart, and it makes him feel so low that he cannot trust in hisgood works. He therefore goes to Christ to find perfect righteousness. Thiskeeps a Christian humble.
VERSES 19, 20.Nowthe works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornification,uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft ...
Paul does not enumerate all the works of theflesh, but only certain ones. First, he mentions various kinds of carnal lusts,as adultery, fornication, wantonness, etc. But carnal lust is not the only workof the flesh, and so he counts among the works of the flesh also idolatry,witchcraft, hatred, and the like. These terms are so familiar that they do notrequire lengthy explanations.
The best religion, the most fervent devotionwithout Christ is plain idolatry. It has been considered a holy act when themonks in their cells meditate upon God and His works, and in a religious frenzykneel down to pray and to weep for joy. Yet Paul calls it simply idolatry. Everyreligion which worships God in ignorance or neglect of His Word and will isidolatry.
They may think about God, Christ, andheavenly things, but they do it after their own fashion and not after the Wordof God. They have an idea that their clothing, their mode of living, and theirconduct are holy and pleasing to Christ. They not only expect to pacify Christby the strictness of their life, but also expect to be rewarded by Him for theirgood deeds. Hence their best "spiritual" thoughts are wicked thoughts.Any worship of God, any religion without Christ is idolatry. In Christ alone isGod well pleased.
I have said before that the works of theflesh are manifest. But idolatry puts on such a good front and acts so spiritual that the sham of it is recognized only by true believers.
This sin was very common before the light ofthe Gospel appeared. When I was a child there were many witches and sorcerersaround who "bewitched" cattle, and people, particularly children, anddid much harm. But now that the Gospel is here you do not hear so much about itbecause the Gospel drives the devil away. Now he bewitches people in a worse waywith spiritual sorcery.
Witchcraft is a brand of idolatry. As witchesused to bewitch cattle and men, so idolaters, i.e., all the self-righteous, goaround to bewitch God and to make Him out as one who justifies men not by gracethrough faith in Christ but by the works of men's own choosing. They bewitch anddeceive themselves. If they continue in their wicked thoughts of God they willdie in their idolatry.
Under sects Paul here understands heresies.Heresies have always been found in the church. What unity of faith can existamong all the different monks and the different orders? None whatever. There isno unity of spirit, no agreement of minds, but great dissension in the papacy.There is no conformity in doctrine, faith, and life. On the other hand, amongevangelical Christians the Word, faith, religion, sacraments, service, Christ,God, heart, and mind are common to all. This unity is not disturbed by outwarddifferences of station or of occupation.
Paul does not say that eating and drinkingare works of the flesh, but intemperance in eating and drinking, which is acommon vice nowadays, is a work of the flesh. Those who are given to excess areto know that they are not spiritual but carnal. Sentence is pronounced upon themthat they shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven. Paul desires that Christiansavoid drunkenness and gluttony , that they live temperate and sober lives, in order that the body may not growsoft and sensual.
VERSE 21.Of thewhich I tell you before, as I have also told you in the past, that they which dosuch things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
This is a hard saying, but very necessary forthose false Christians and hypocrites who speak much about the Gospel, aboutfaith, and the Spirit, yet live after the flesh. But this hard sentence isdirected chiefly at the heretics who are large with their own self-importance,that they may be frightened into taking up the fight of the Spirit against theflesh.
VERSES 22, 23.Butthe fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness,goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.
The Apostle does not speak of the works ofthe Spirit as he spoke of the works of the flesh, but he attaches to theseChristian virtues a better name. He calls them the fruits of the Spirit.
It would have been enough to mention only thesingle fruit of love, for love embraces all the fruits of the Spirit. In ICorinthians 13, Paul attributes to love all the fruits of the Spirit:"Charity suffereth long, and is kind," etc. Here he lets love stand byitself among other fruits of the Spirit to remind the Christians to love oneanother, "in honor preferring one another," to esteem others more thanthemselves because they have Christ and the Holy Ghost within them.
Joy means sweet thoughts of Christ, melodioushymns and psalms, praises and thanksgiving, with which Christians instruct,inspire, and refresh themselves. God does not like doubt and dejection. He hatesdreary doctrine, gloomy and melancholy thought. God likes cheerful hearts. He did not send His Son to fill us with sadness, but to gladden our hearts. Forthis reason the prophets, apostles, and Christ Himself urge, yes, command us torejoice and be glad. "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thyking cometh unto thee." (Zech. 9:9.) In the Psalms we are repeatedly told to be "joyful inthe Lord." Paul says: "Rejoice in the Lord always." Christ says:"Rejoice, for your names are written in heaven."
Peace towards God and men. Christians are tobe peaceful and quiet. Not argumentative, not hateful, but thoughtful andpatient. There can be no peace without longsuffering, and therefore Paul liststhis virtue next.
Longsuffering is that quality which enables aperson to bear adversity, injury, reproach, and makes them patient to wait forthe improvement of those who have done him wrong. When the devil finds that hecannot overcome certain persons by force he tries to overcome them in the longrun. He knows that we are weak and cannot stand anything long. Therefore herepeats his temptation time and again until he succeeds. To withstand hiscontinued assaults we must be longsuffering and patiently wait for the devil toget tired of his game.
Gentleness in conduct and life. Truefollowers of the Gospel must not be sharp and bitter, but gentle, mild,courteous, and soft-spoken, which should encourage others to seek their company.Gentleness can overlook other people's faults and cover them up. Gentleness isalways glad to give in to others. Gentleness can get along with forward anddifficult persons, according to the old pagan saying: "You must know themanners of your friends, but you must not hate them." Such a gentle personwas our Savior Jesus Christ, as the Gospel portrays Him. Of Peter it is recorded that he wept whenever he remembered the sweet gentleness ofChrist in His daily contact with people. Gentleness is an excellent virtue andvery useful in every walk of life.
A person is good when he is willing to helpothers in their need.
In listing faith among the fruits of theSpirit, Paul obviously does not mean faith in Christ, but faith in men. Suchfaith is not suspicious of people but believes the best. Naturally the possessorof such faith will be deceived, but he lets it pass. He is ready to believe allmen, but he will not trust all men. Where this virtue is lacking men aresuspicious, forward, and wayward and will believe nothing nor yield to anybody.No matter how well a person says or does anything, they will find fault with it,and if you do not humor them you can never please them. It is quite impossibleto get along with them. Such faith in people therefore, is quite necessary. Whatkind of life would this be if one person could not believe another person?
A person is meek when he is not quick to getangry. Many things occur in daily life to provoke a person's anger, but theChristian gets over his anger by meekness.
Christians are to lead sober and chastelives. They should not be adulterers, fornicators, or sensualists. They shouldnot be quarrelers or drunkards. In the first and second chapters of the Epistleto Titus, the Apostle admonishes bishops, young women, and married folks to bechaste and pure.
VERSE 23.Againstsuch there is no law.
There is a law, of course, but it does notapply to those who bear these fruits of the Spirit. The Law is not given for therighteous man. A true Christian conducts himself in such a way that he does not need any law to warn or to restrain him. He obeysthe Law without compulsion. The Law does not concern him. As far as he isconcerned there would not have to be any Law.
VERSE 24.And theythat are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
True believers are no hypocrites. Theycrucify the flesh with its evil desires and lusts. Inasmuch as they have notaltogether put off the sinful flesh they are inclined to sin. They do not fearor love God as they should. They are likely to be provoked to anger, to envy, toimpatience, to carnal lust, and other emotions. But they will not do the thingsto which the flesh incites them. They crucify the flesh with its evil desiresand lusts by fasting and exercise and, above all, by a walk in the Spirit.
To resist the flesh in this manner is to nailit to the Cross. Although the flesh is still alive it cannot very well act uponits desires because it is bound and nailed to the Cross.
VERSE 25.If we livein the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
A little while ago the Apostle had condemnedthose who are envious and start heresies and schisms. As if he had forgottenthat he had already berated them, the Apostle once more reproves those whoprovoke and envy others. Was not one reference to them sufficient? He repeatshis admonition in order to emphasize the viciousness of pride that had causedall the trouble in the churches of Galatia, and has always caused the Church ofChrist no end of difficulties. In his Epistle to Titus the Apostle states that avainglorious man should not be ordained as a minister, for pride, as St.Augustine points out, is the mother of all heresies.
Now vainglory has always been a common poisonin the world. There is no village too small to contain someone who wants to beconsidered wiser or better than the rest. Those who have been bitten by pride usually stand upon the reputation forlearning and wisdom. Vainglory is not nearly so bad in a private person or evenin an official as it is in a minister.
When the poison of vainglory gets into theChurch you have no idea what havoc it can cause. You may argue about knowledge,art, money, countries, and the like without doing particular harm. But youcannot quarrel about salvation or damnation, about eternal life and eternaldeath without grave damage to the Church. No wonder Paul exhorts all ministersof the Word to guard against this poison. He writes: "If we live in theSpirit." Where the Spirit is, men gain new attitudes. Where formerly theywere vainglorious, spiteful and envious, they now become humble, gentle andpatient. Such men seek not their own glory, but the glory of God. They do notprovoke each other to wrath or envy, but prefer others to themselves.
As dangerous to the Church as this abominablepride is, yet there is nothing more common. The trouble with the ministers ofSatan is that they look upon the ministry as a stepping-stone to fame and glory,and right there you have the seed for all sorts of dissensions.
Because Paul knew that the vainglory of thefalse Apostles had caused the churches of Galatia endless trouble, he makes ithis business to suppress this abominable vice. In his absence the false apostleswent to work in Galatia. They pretended that they had been on intimate termswith the apostles, while Paul had never seen Christ in person or had muchcontact with the rest of the apostles. Because of this they delivered him,rejected his doctrine, and boosted their own. In this way they troubled theGalatians and caused quarrels among them until they provoked and envied eachother; which goes to show that neither the false apostles nor the Galatianswalked after the Spirit, but after the flesh.
The Gospel is not there for us to aggrandizeourselves. The Gospel is to aggrandize Christ and the mercy of God. It holds outto men eternal gifts that are not gifts of our own manufacture. What right have we to receive praise and glory for gifts thatare not of our own making?
No wonder that God in His special gracesubjects the ministers of the Gospel to all kinds of afflictions, otherwise theycould not cope with this ugly beast called vainglory. If no persecution, nocross, or reproach trailed the doctrine of the Gospel, but only praise andreputation, the ministers of the Gospel would choke with pride. Paul had theSpirit of Christ. Nevertheless there was given unto him the messenger of Satanto buffet him in order that he should not come to exalt himself, because of thegrandeur of his revelations. St. Augustine'sopinion is well taken: "If a minister of the Gospel is praised, he is indanger; if he is despised, he is also in danger."
The ministers of the Gospel should be men whoare not too easily affected by praise or criticism, but simply speak out thebenefit and the glory of Christ and seek the salvation of souls.
Whenever you are being praised, remember itis not you who is being praised but Christ, to whom all praise belongs. When youpreach the Word of God in its purity and also live accordingly, it is not yourown doing, but God's doing. And when people praise you, they really mean topraise God in you. When you understand this--and you should because "whathast thou that thou didst not receive?"--you will not flatter yourself onthe one hand and on the other hand you will not carry yourself with the thoughtof resigning from the ministry when you are insulted, reproached, or persecuted.
It is really kind of God to send so muchinfamy, reproach, hatred, and cursing our way to keep us from getting proud ofthe gifts of God in us. We need a millstone around our neck to keep us humble.There are a few on our side who love and revere us for the ministry of the Word,but for every one of these there are a hundred on the other side who hate andpersecute us.
The Lord is our glory. Such gifts as wepossess we acknowledge to be the gifts of God, given to us for the good of the Church of Christ. Therefore we are not proud because of them. Weknow that more is required of them to whom much is given, than of such to whomlittle is given. We also know that God is no respecter of persons. A plainfactory hand who does his work faithfully pleases God just as much as a ministerof the Word.
VERSE 26.Let us notbe desirous of vain glory.
To desire vainglory is to desire lies,because when one person praises another he tells lies. What is there in anybodyto praise? But it is different when the ministry is praised. We should not onlydesire people to praise the ministry of the Gospel but also do our utmost tomake the ministry worthy of praise because this will make the ministry moreeffective. Paul warns the Romans not to bring Christianity into disrepute."Let not then your good be evil spoken of." (Rom. 14:16.) He also begged the Corinthians to "give no offense in anything, that the ministry be not blamed." (I Cor. 6:3.) When people praise our ministry they are not praising ourpersons, but God.
VERSE 26.Provokingone another, envying one another.
Such is the ill effect of vainglory. Thosewho teach errors provoke others. When others disapprove and reject the doctrinethe teachers of errors get angry in turn, and then you have strife and trouble.The sectarians hate us furiously because we will not approve their errors. Wedid not attack them directly. We merely called attention to certain abuses inthe Church. They did not like it and became sore at us, because it hurt theirpride. They wish to be the lone rulers of the church.