THE CHURCHMAN S BIBLE
JOHN HENRY BURN, B.D.
The Epistle of St Paul
to the Galatians
OF PAUL THE
A. W. ROBINSON, B,D,
METHUEN & CO,
36 ESSEX STREET, W,C
LONDON * MDCCCXCIX
BY THE GENERAL EDITOR
THIS series of Expositions is intended to be of
service to the general reader in the practical and
devotional study of Holy Scripture. The Editors
of the several Books, while taking into account the
latest results of critical research, will make it their
main endeavour to exhibit and emphasise the
permanent truths and principles underlying the
Sacred Text, and to indicate the bearing of these
truths and principles on the spiritual, the moral,
and the social life of the present day.
Each Book is prefaced by a full and clear
Introductory Section, setting forth what is known,
or may be reasonably conjectured, respecting the
date and occasion of the composition of the Book,
and any other particulars that may help to eluci
date its meaning as a whole. The Exposition
proper is divided into short paragraphs, which are
grouped together in larger sections corresponding
as far as possible with the divisions of the Church
Lectionary, and a Table is given shewing the days
on which the different sections are appointed to
be read at Morning and Evening Prayer. The
translation of the Authorised Version is printed in
full, such corrections as are deemed necessary to
bring out the sense being placed in footnotes.
INTRODUCTION ,, AGE
i. Why the Epistle is not a favourite . 3
ii. The occasion which called it forth . 8
in. Why St Paul felt as he did about
the matter . ... 12
iv. The general lines of his treatment
of it 16
v. Why his words are of value for us . 22
EXPLANATION OF THE TEXT
1. Chapter i. . 29
2. Chapter ii. . ... 39
3. Chapter iii. . . 51
4. Chapter iv. i 21 . . . 63
5. Chapter iv. 21 to v. 13 . . . 72
6. Chapter v. 13 to end . . .80
7. Chapter vi. . . . . .89
ST PAUL S TEACHING AS TO CHRISTIAN
PRIVILEGE: A Survey . . .100
ST PAUL S TEACHING AS TO CHRISTIAN
CHARACTER : A Study . . , ,112
A VOICE REPLIED, FAR UP THE HEIGHT,
T T would probably not be easy to name a part
* of the New Testament which is less gener
ally appreciated by the ordinary reader than the
Epistle to the Galatians. Most persons seem to
think of it as extremely dogmatic and highly con
troversial in its character ; and most English people
just now are in a mood to dislike dogmatics; partly,
it is to be feared, because they are indisposed to
take the trouble required by accurate thought and
statement, and partly on account of the weariness
with which practical minds are wont to turn from
religious controversy, the more so when it is con
troversy which was waged in a now long-distant
past. We are certainly little attracted to the task
of raking over what we imagine to be the cinders
of burnt-out disputes, on the chance that we
may possibly discover something in them that
will repay us for our pains.
We are aware, of course, that the greatest
importance was attached to this Epistle by those
who threw themselves most eagerly into the
revolt against traditional Christianity, as it had
come to be in the sixteenth century; and we
4 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
know that, since that time, it has been regarded
by many as a very Gibraltar of Protestantism :
but it is not unlikely that, for this very reason,
we have been only the more ready to conclude
that it is in other directions that we shall most
hopefully look for the guidance which is needed
to help us in dealing with the questions and
problems which beset us at the present day.
And yet, if we allow ourselves to reflect upon
the matter, we must see that to acquiesce in
such a conclusion would be unsatisfactory, and
even worse. Whatever we may think or feel,
the fact remains that the deeper consciousness of
early Christianity did recognise in this Epistle to
the Galatians the signs of an inspired work, and
that the Catholic Church has from the first given
to it unhesitatingly a place amongst those of its
writings which are not to pass away.
This being so, it must surely be our duty and
our wisdom to make an effort to put from us all
mere prejudice and misgiving, in order that we
may apply ourselves heartily and intelligently to
the consideration probably to some of us, it
may be the discovery of the message which is
waiting here to deliver itself anew to open and
It may even be that there are some among us
who will be glad to render some reparation for
their past neglect, and will welcome an opportunity
of trying to get down beneath the surface of the
old words and technical phrases, to the essential
meaning of great and unchanging principles.
It is for such, more especially, that this attempt
at interpretation is intended, and it will certainly
fail of its aim if it does not succeed in convincing
them that the old Epistle is full of most vivid
and vital interest, and that it has a great deal to
say about some of the most important of the
great questions which can never long be absent
from the thoughts of seriously-minded people in
this or any other age.
That the task, if it is to be accomplished, will
demand a certain amount of labour from us, had
better be recognised at the outset. It has been
asserted that St Paul is perhaps of all writers,
ancient and modern, the most difficult to under
stand. Certainly it is true to say that, even
apart from his lofty spiritual imagination and
daring originality which call for more than ordinary
sympathy and insight on the part of his would-
be interpreters, there are characteristics of his
style and treatment which in themselves add con
siderably to the amount of exertion required from
those who are to get at his meaning.
There have not been many writers whose sen
tences have been packed so full with thought and
feeling as are those of St Paul. Into a few lines he
often condenses an argument which would require
as many pages for its adequate expansion and
expression. Then, too, he loves to employ illus-
6 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
trations, and is continually making allusions which,
for obvious reasons, are less likely to be familiar
and intelligible to us at this distance of time than
they were to the readers to whom they were
originally addressed. And it is probably no
exaggeration to assert that there is not one of all
his writings of which all this can be said more
accurately than this very Epistle to the Galatians.
However, we need not be afraid that the task
will prove insuperable, nor indeed that it will
demand more from us than any persons of
ordinary thoughtfulness may fairly be expected
to give. So many workers have, at different
times, been engaged on the field, that there is
scarcely a point of difficulty upon which it is
not possible to bring to bear an immense amount
of knowledge, gathered in the course of long
and most careful investigation. In truth, it not
seldom happens that we are in danger of finding
ourselves bewildered amid the masses of material
and the variety of the opinions which are so
readily accessible to us. Our aim will be to
resist the temptations to turn aside from the
main issues, and to endeavour, while paying all
due respect to the judgment of recognised authori
ties, to see as far as we can, with fresh eyes, and
for ourselves, the broad outlines and general bear
ings of this part of the New Testament teaching.
We can have no doubt as to the way by which
we must approach the consideration of the
Epistle. The advantages of the historical method
have for so many years been so constantly and
deeply impressed upon our minds that it would not
be at all natural for us, perhaps it would be
scarcely possible for us, to adopt any other. An
instinct seems to tell us that we must begin by
endeavouring to put ourselves, as far as we can,
in the position of the writer, and of the persons
whom he was in the first instance addressing. We
must ask ourselves, * What were the circumstances
which led St Paul to address the Galatians at all,
and led him to address them as he did? Only
in this way can we hope to get a satisfactory
insight into his actual intention and meaning;
and not until we have done this can we form any
reasonable opinion as to how far the things which
he had to say to them have any real significance
and value for ourselves under the obviously altered
conditions in which we have to live our lives at
the present time.
Let us then, by way of preparation for a more
detailed study, do our best to give answers to
such simple inquiries as these :
a. What was it that had happened among the
Galatian Christians which led St Paul to
write to them ?
b. Why was it that in writing he took so extremely
serious a view of the situation that had
8 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
c. How was it that, speaking quite generally, he
set himself to deal with it ?
By the time that we have answered these ques
tions, we ought to have a very fair idea of what
we may expect to meet with, if we are disposed
to make a further and closer acquaintance" with
The story of the Galatians, so far as we know
it, can be quickly told. They were a people
living in the centre of Asia Minor. Whether
they were the direct descendants of the Celts
who had invaded the country, coming from the
westward, rather less than three centuries before,
to whom the term Galatae more properly applied ;
or whether, as has been maintained, they were a
part of the mixed populations who inhabited the
more southerly districts of the more inclusive
Roman province which bore the name of Galatia,
is, and is likely to remain, a debatable matter. 1
1 The advantage of understanding Galatia in the wider
political sense (as comprising Lycaonia, Isauria, and portions
of Phrygia and Pisidia), would be that we should thus be
enabled to include Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe,
all of which we know to have been visited by St Paul (Acts
xiii. xiv. ) ; whereas, if we confine the term to its narrower
meaning, we are left without any detailed knowledge of what
the actual places were to which the Apostle went. Against
such an obvious attraction to this view (maintained with
ardour by Renan, and more recently advocated in England
St Paul had preached the Gospel to them in
the first instance ; and his preaching had been
attended with the most clearly-marked success.
His stay among them had, it would seem, been
occasioned by an illness, but this, so far from
proving a hindrance, had rather helped him to
win his way to their hearts. Nothing could have
exceeded the enthusiasm with which he had been
received. The -people had vied with one another
in their efforts to express the warmth, the almost
extravagance, of their affection. When he left them,
their souls were willing over with thankfulness and
For a while all had continued to go most pros
perously ; but it was only for a while. Ere long
there came about the most extraordinary change.
It was not merely that the first ardour of early
enthusiasm had begun to decline there would
by Prof. W. M. Ramsay) has to be set the fact that St
Luke distinctly describes Lystra and Derbe as " cities of
Lycaonia" (Acts xiv. 6), and assigns Antioch to Pisidia
(xiii. 14). When further he speaks of Galatia, or of "the
Phrygian and Galatian country v (xvi. 6), it seems almost
certain that he intended to employ the word Galatia in its
narrowQr and more popular sense. A yet stronger argument
to determine St Paul s reference in this Epistle may be
drawn from his exclamation " O foolish Galatians ! " (iii. l).
It is scarcely possible to suppose that in an impassioned
outburst of personal appeal he would use what was merely
an official designation under which were grouped various
peoples of different nationalities.
io EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
have been nothing so very unusual in that. Their
ardour had not only declined, it had disappeared
to make way for feelings of a wholly different kind.
And it had all come about so rapidly.
The Galatians were evidently a mercurial and
inconstant people ; but even St Paul, who knew
them so well, was not prepared for the suddenness
and the violence of this transformation.
With the report of it, however, there had come
to him also the explanation of what had occurred.
It had not been simply the effect of reaction.
Had it been only this, there might have come in
time perhaps a reaction from the reaction. But
other influences had been at work. Teachers had
appeared upon the scene who only too well under
stood the state of affairs, and were only too well
pleased to make the most of the opportunity
afforded to them by the coolness and depression
of the once fervid converts of St Paul.
These persons were the bitter foes of the
Apostle of the Gentiles, and they had systematic
ally made it their business to follow in his steps,
in order that they might neutralise his influence
and destroy his work. It was not often that they
found an opening so entirely favourable for their
purpose, and they had evidently lost no time in
availing themselves of it. Under the guise of
friendship and sympathy, they had offered their
counsel and their help. They addressed them
selves to those who, as it would seem, had at last
been awakened as if from a dream, to realise that
the emotions and resolutions of a period of great
spiritual excitement could scarcely be taken to
be the normal experience of average people at
Their advice to the Galatians was that they
should be less ambitious and more practical in
their aims ; and, above all, that they should learn
from the experience of the past to be careful as
to the choice of those to whom they gave their
confidence in future. They did not scruple to
assure them that they had been cruelly misled.
They spoke of St Paul as a discredited indivi
dual, no real apostle at all, but a vague visionary
who had set before himself and before others a quite
unattainable ideal. They denied that he had any
proper authority for what he said or did, and
they denounced his teaching as bad in every
respect. They declared that it was new, unauthor
ised, unscriptural, and extremely dangerous in its
For their part, they counselled the Galatians
to be content with the time-honoured ways of
religion which had satisfied, and were satisfying,
multitudes of others. In these, so they assured
them, they would find the fullest employment for
their activities, while, at the same time, they would
be saved from the exhaustion which followed in
definite attempts to reach impossible standards.
Nor did they give them this advice in a merely
12 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
abstract shape. They put before them a regular
system of exercises and observances; things
actually to be accomplished and done, in the doing
of which progress might be marked and the mind
might find repose.
It was evident that the counsel of these teachers
had commended itself to very many as timely and
wise. More or less generally, the methods pre
scribed were being adopted, with the result that,
so far as outward appearances went, there were
all the indications of a vigorous and energetic
This, in short, was the state of affairs as it had
been reported to St Paul.
We have but to glance at the Epistle to see
that to St Paul the report occasioned the acutest
distress and dismay. He writes off at once in a
very anguish of alarm. Nowhere in any other of
his letters that have come down to us does he
express himself with so much warmth and
He tells the Galatians that they have been
guilty of an almost incredible folly ; and he warns
them that, if they go on as they are going, they
will find that they have deserted from the Gospel
and have fallen from grace. He says that he is
afraid that the efforts which he has bestowed upon
them have been entirely thrown away.
And why this serious view of the matter ? Is it
merely, or chiefly, that he feels aggrieved by the
injury which has been inflicted upon his own repu
tation ; and that he is indignant, as he naturally
might be, at the fickleness of those whom he
had counted as his friends ? Or is it for reasons
which move him much more deeply than any
considerations of personal injustice and loss ?
We are sure beforehand that it is not for him
self that he is trembling, but for them. And in
truth he very soon makes it clear that both he and
they had good cause to be afraid.
He knew these false teachers well, and he knew
what came of their influence. He perceived, as
probably no other man then living perceived, the
real issues which were at stake; and, as he saw
the matter, it was simply a question of life and
death. The change through which his former
disciples were passing was in his view an altogether
They were going down to a condition in which
their entire attention was devoted to what they
were being taught to regard as meritorious acts of
compliance with an elaborated system of external
religious observances. It was the thought of this
that filled him with dread.
And why ? Did St Paul mean them to under
stand that no value is to be attached to religious
14 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
observances ? Assuredly, he did not. He under
stood human nature well enough to know that,
even in its highest endeavours, it is unable to
dispense with the help and the support of the
outward and the material; that, in fact, religion
simply could not continue to exist among a people
without a due conservation of its external forms. 1
In one passage of this Epistle he speaks in the
strongest language of the benefit received
through the sacrament of Holy Baptism, and
elsewhere he shews us how decisively he could
deal with any who thought, of their own private
judgment and selfwill, to devise practices or
institute customs which were unknown to the
Church at large. 2
St Paul most certainly did not mean to say what
he would quickly have had to unsay again. He
did not mean to say that religious acts and exer
cises have no real value, and ought to have no
place in the life of a Christian. What he did mean
to say, and to say with all his might, was this:
that religious acts and exercises are dangerous, and
may become destructive, when they are deliber
ately adopted as substitutes for spiritual character.
When men have come to a state of mind in which
1 f The form of religion may indeed be where there is little
of the thing itself, but the thing itself cannot be preserved
amongst mankind without the form. (Bp. Butler, Charge
to Clergy of Durham, 1751).
2 I Cor. xi. 1 6, xiv. 36.
they allow themselves to say we cannot rise to
that, let us be content with this ; when the inward
is abandoned and the outward is accepted in its
stead, then a compromise has been made which
can only be fatal.
He meant, and he asserts it again and again in
different ways, that doing is a deadly thing when
doing takes the place of being.
With St Paul, spiritual attainment, Christian
character, was the principal thing. It was for this
that Christ had come, and had died, and had risen
again. It was for this that His Spirit was ever
striving within them. To repudiate and abandon
the desire for this, and to be willing instead to
find satisfaction in a prescribed routine of ordered
observances, persuading themselves that these could
avail to secure or to retain the favour of God, this
was, indeed, after they had "begun in the Spirit,"
to seek to be " made perfect in the flesh." This
was a course which could only result in the darken
ing and the deadening of their souls.
It was to persons who were taking this down
ward step that the Apostle uttered the warning,
appealing cry of the Epistle ; and it is we need
not hesitate to say it at once because this Epistle
is addressed to those who are exposed to the stress
of this terrible temptation that it has had in the
past, and will continue to have in the future, a
most powerful and never outworn message to the
minds and the consciences of men.
1 6 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
We have spoken then of the situation with
which St Paul found himself suddenly called upon
to deal, and of the reasons which might rightly
lead him to look upon it as being critical in the
last degree. We have now to ask further how it
was that the Apostle set about to discharge the
very painful and anxious duty which had thus been
forced upon him.
The task before St Paul was by no means a
slight one. He had to make an Apologia for
himself and his doctrine. His right to teach at
all had been defiantly challenged, and his teaching
had been denounced as not only unauthorised, but
false and pernicious.
Plainly, therefore, it was necessary that he
should face the assertions of his detractors on
these issues before he could hope to offer counsel
with any effect to persons whose confidence in
himself had been so severely shaken. This con
sequently is the course he adopts. He begins by
asserting and proving his right to be heard.
St Paul vindicates his Apostleship on the ground
that the call to it had come to him direct from
Christ. In this respect, his position was equal to
that of any other of the Apostles. He had not
derived his authority from them, nor indeed had
his doctrine been delivered to him by them. His
relations with them had at the first been restricted
to the briefest interviews; and there had been
occasions on which he had found it needful to
maintain before them, and even against them, the
truths with which he had been entrusted. At the
same time he is able to shew that, so far from
there having been any disapproval of himself on
the part of the elder Apostles, they had fully ad
mitted that he had received a Divine commission
in no way inferior to their own.
Having thus established his right to be re
garded as an authoritative exponent of the
Christian faith, he proceeds after an outburst
of astonishment at the unreasonableness of those
whose personal experience had afforded them
such convincing evidence of the character of
his teaching to meet in order the charges which
had been so confidently made against it.
It had been urged that his doctrine was new.
He had admitted already that in some sense
it was. It was new, that is to say, in the sense
that it had come to him newly and afresh, and
not at second-hand. He had not learned it in
any of the schools, whether Jewish or Christian.
He had received it independently of intervention
on the part of man. But new in any other sense
it most certainly was not. It was old ; old as the
earliest records of the religious life on the first
pages of the Bible.
His antagonists had appealed to the Scriptures ;
to the Scriptures by all means let them go. They
1 8 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
would not deny that Abraham was the great head
of the Jewish race; the man who beyond all
others had been eulogised and beatified by the
Divine approval, and set forth as the pattern and
type for those who should come after.
On what ground, then, had this most honoured
saint found favour with God? It had been un
mistakably declared that Abraham was accepted
on account of his Faith of that which was inward,
and of all things most unlike an outward act or
work. It was by reason of his Faith that most
elementary and yet most deep movement of the
soul by which it is drawn upward and Godward :
it was by Faith by that which is the first
evidence as it is also the most indispensable
condition of spiritual character that Abraham
was what he was.
In the simplest and most natural way Abraham
had believed in and trusted himself to God ; and
had in consequence been blessed with a promise
of good which, by the very terms of it, was
pledged not to himself alone, but to a spiritual
offspring, who were not to be restricted to any
particular family or race.
St Paul, laying hold of this ancient testimony,
claimed that in it is to be found the anticipation,
nay more, the very promulgation of the Gospel;
and this, of course, at a date wholly anterior to
the Law. By a carefully elaborated argument he
works out the thought that the Law, coming as it
did so much later and being of an entirely
different nature, could not possibly have been
intended to set aside the earlier provisions of the
pre-established order of Grace. That the Law
had its purpose to serve he fully allows, and he
enters at some length into the explanation of
what that purpose was. But it was a purpose
which could be carried out with advantage only
in the case of those who were in a state of re
ligious infancy. For others, who ought to have
got beyond it, to return to the conditions of
pupilage and bondage was to renounce the very
ends which the Law itself had in view, and to
turn their backs upon the hopes of a Christian.
If they did this, they might indeed make out
that they were the descendants of Abraham ; but
it would be by the wholly inferior line of Ishmael
the child of the bondwoman, and not according
to the true succession of Isaac the son of the
Rather than that, let them stand by their
liberty, and follow the Scriptural precedent by
chasing away into the wilderness the offspring
of Hagar who had come to disturb their peace.
So much for the appeal to Scripture, and the
conclusions to which alone it could legitimately
But the doctrine of St Paul had been de
nounced as unsafe as well as unsound; and the
mention of Freedom forms the point of transi-
20 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
tion at which he could pass on to say what he felt
it necessary to say on this head. His enemies
had made the accusation which is ever ready to
hand, when for other reasons religious teaching
is to be condemned. It is always so easy to
give logical proof to shew that the tendencies of
certain doctrines must necessarily be mischievous ;
and in the case of St Paul s teaching the task was
more than commonly easy. Take away re
strictions that is what he did and the results
must be obvious enough !
Now, St Paul was the very last man to shrink
from the application of the moral test ; and in
this matter he has not the smallest misgiving as
to what the effect of such a test would be. Only
he not unnaturally insists that it is his own
teaching that must be put to trial, and not a
perversion of it. It is a teaching of Freedom,
but what does that mean? Does it mean that
permission is to be granted to the lower part of
human nature to do what it pleases? That is
not liberty, but license.
What "the works of the flesh" are, when the
flesh is left free, that everyone knows ; and if
religion aims at nothing more than to keep the
evil that is in us within bounds, then indeed it
must be most dangerous to think of removing
restraints. But if on the other hand religion has
the power to quicken and strengthen the good,
to give new life to the spiritual part of our
nature ; then the best hope of highest attainment
will lie in the free and unhindered development
of the "fruit of the Spirit."
For the results of such liberty the only liberty
worthy of the name St Paul has no fear at all.
In words which glow yet with the light of inspira
tion he sets forth to view an enumeration of the
characteristics of such a life, as he had often
beheld them ; and we may readily imagine the
look of triumphant assurance in his face as he
penned his conclusion, "against such there is
no law!" Away then, he would say, with all
hesitation as to the practical outcome of my
doctrine. In results such as these there is
nothing to fear and nothing to condemn.
Defence was never more bold or more complete.
And there is more than defence. At every step
of the argument we are made to realise that the
Apostle is thinking not only of a victory which
has to be gained over dangerous foes, but far
more anxiously of those for whose well-being he
yearns with an affection as tender as his attitude
on their behalf is courageous.
The Pastor is never for a moment lost in the
Controversialist. Never are we allowed to forget
that, over and beyond every other aim and desire,
his chief hope and ambition is that he may be
permitted to minister to the necessities of souls.
The Epistle abounds in flashes of rapid practical
insight, anticipations of doubts, suggestions of
22 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
help drawn from the most various quarters;
and these are accompanied by encouragements
to press forward bravely and perseveringly, with
earnest pleadings for that support which one may
render to another at times when the way is steep
and the burden presses.
The final chapter is mainly concerned with
considerations of practical duty; but before it
closes the tone once more becomes that of warning.
There is a last protest ; and then a final aspiration
for the peace which is at once the crown of
Christian endeavour and the end of Christian
We have now accomplished what we set out
to do in this Introduction. We have tried to
indicate something at all events of the needs
which the Epistle was at first intended to meet.
It is to be hoped that what has been said has
increased the expectation with which we shall
turn again to the venerable document. It is
to be hoped that it may have done more. Is it
possible that we can follow, even in such briefest
outline, a story like this of the Galatians, and not
feel that very much of what was addressed to
them is, after all these years, just as truly applic
able to ourselves?
The temptation before which they faltered in
their hour of trial is as strong as ever to-day.
Endeavour after the highest in character is hard
and exhausting. Reliance upon the support
of supernatural Power makes a continuous
demand for faith and self-abandonment. It is
so easy to sink into self-consciousness, and to
become dismayed at the thought of a task which
is so evidently beyond the attainment of our
unaided strength. The failures are so frequent,
and the progress seems so slow. And the sug
gestion is ever at hand, Would it not be wiser,
even humbler, to abandon the struggle after the
unattainable, and to be content with some more
satisfactory, because more possible, aim? And
how subtle are the arguments which are always
ready to pour in to complete the discomfiture of
the already despairing will ! x
It may be everything to us, when the crisis
comes, that we have been at the pains to master
1 It is, in my mind, impossible to ignore that there
are in several directions grave dangers of what under the
guise of most religion becomes least religious of lowering,
of materialising, of making religion lull the conscience
instead of awaken and strengthen the conscience, of making
the way of God seem an elaborately technical thing, instead
of the old way of the conscience and of simple faith,
going out towards the fulfilment of itself and its needs
in Christ Jesus and the work of His Spirit. (Bishop
Talbot, Address to Rochester Diocesan Conference. June
24 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
the meaning of the brief treatise in which the
greatest of Christian writers has given to the
Church of all time such instruction and guidance
about the whole matter as he believed to be in
accordance with the mind of our Master.
Shewing the days on which the several sections of this
Epistle are appointed to be read in the Lessons at Morning
and Evening Prayer.
Section Chapter Morning Prayer
i. I. September 22.
2. II. ,, 23.
3. III. 24.
4. IV. I 21 ,, 25.
5. IV. 21 V. 13 26.
6. V. 13 end. ,, 27.
7. VI. 28.
Chapter V. i 16 may also be read at Evening Prayer
TEXT OF THE EPISTLE
TEXT OF THE EPISTLE
TN the closer examination of the Epistle upon
which we now enter, we shall not attempt any
thing like a microscopic inquiry into the sense of
every word. This has been done again and again,
with results which may be found in the larger
Commentaries. Our aim will rather be to get
a strong grasp upon the meaning of the letter as
a whole, and we shall concern ourselves with the
particular verses and expressions only so far as
the accurate understanding of these is directly
useful for the accomplishment of this purpose.
We shall take the text in short sections, and
it will be observed by those who are accustomed
to follow the order of reading prescribed in our
Church s Lectionary, that the larger divisions,
according to which these sections are grouped,
will correspond with its arrangement.
The translation adopted is that of the Author
ised Version. Where in any instances it has been
30 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
thought necessary that this should be altered, the
words to be changed will be indicated by numerals,
and the suggested alterations will be given im
mediately after the text.
1 Paul, an apostle (not of men, neither by man, but
by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised
2 him from the dead ;) and all the brethren which
3 are with me, unto the churches of Galatia : Grace
be to you and peace from God the Father, and
4 from our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for
our sins, that he might deliver us from this present
evil world, according to the will of God and our
5 Father : to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
At the outset St Paul asserts his claim to be
heard in the most unmistakable terms. He is
an Apostle, deriving his authority from no source
less than divine, through no other instrumentality
than the commission of our Lord Himself. Though
he had not known Christ after the flesh, he was
compensated, perhaps more than compensated,
by the fact that he had known Him as "raised
from the dead." The reference to "all the
brethren " who are with him may be intended
to indicate that he was not, after all, quite so
isolated a teacher as his opponents had wished
The salutation is his ordinary one, combining
"grace," the greeting of the new Dispensation,
with " peace " the watchword of the old. It is
given as with Apostolic authority, and conveys
CHAPTER I 3 i
the assurance not only of his own personal good
feeling, but of the Divine love and good purpose
towards them; a love which had stayed at no
sacrifice in the past, and a purpose which could
never be satisfied until those for whom Christ
died should have been set free from the bondage
of the lower life of sense. As a true Apostle, his
desire is not to sound his own praises, but simply
to further the glory of God.
After this brief introduction of himself and his
motive, he passes at once to speak of his particular
reasons for writing.
6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed l from him
that called you into 2 the grace of Christ unto
7 another 3 gospel: which is not another; but 4 there
be some that trouble you, and would pervert the
8 gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel
from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you
than that which we have preached unto you, let
9 him be accursed. As we said before, so say I
now again, If any man preach any other gospel
unto you than that ye have received, let him be
1 removing 2 in 3 a different 4 only
In every other Epistle but this, St Paul, when he
has given his salutation, proceeds to express his
thankfulness for what he has known or heard of the
state and progress of those to whom he is writing.
He does so even when, later on in the course of
the letter, he has to use language of disapprobation
and censure. The entire absence of commenda-
32 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
tion here is therefore most significant. So filled is
he with distress at the condition of the Galatian
Churches, that he cannot keep back even for a
moment his feelings of sorrow and amazement.
The change since his last visit, or even if the time
were reckoned since the date of their first con
version, had come with such extraordinary rapidity.
It is true that the Authorised Version exaggerates
somewhat by its rendering in the past tense.
What St Paul says is that they were " so quickly
removing." He does not imply that the defection
was absolutely complete, but that it had gone far
enough to justify the most serious apprehen
His wonder is that they do not see matters as
he sees them. Their disloyalty and desertion
were not merely sins against their Apostle, but
against the God Who had sent him. They were
rejecting His goodness and refusing to hear His
voice. In taking to a different Gospel they were
taking to what was in reality no Gospel at all. It
was only a Gospel if the perversion of a Gospel had
any right to be described by that name. Those
who had come to disturb them were in simple
fact turning the Gospel upside down. This is
the force of St Paul s expression, " perverting the
Gospel of Christ." What he means by it we shall
see more clearly later, in Chapter iii. 3. Now the
Gospel of Christ was a thing which no created
being might dare to change. The most fearful
CHAPTER I 33
condemnation that could be pronounced would
not be too severe for anyone, be he who he
might, man or angel, who should presume to
tamper with it. From the words "as we said
before" we gather that the Apostle and his
companions had, when with them, in a measure
foreseen and forewarned them of the peril that
might beset them. It was the more inexcusable,
therefore, that they should have been so readily
It gives him no pleasure to speak as he does ;
nothing but the most urgent sense of his duty
would induce him to do so :
10 For do I now persuade men, or God ? or do I seek
to please men? for 1 if I yet pleased men, I should
1 1 not be the 2 servant of Christ. But I certify you,
brethren, that the gospel which was preached of
12 me is not after man. For I neither received it of
man, neither was I taught //, but by the revelation
13 of Jesus Christ. For ye have heard of my con
versation 3 in time past in the Jews religion, how
that beyond measure I persecuted the church of
14 God, and wasted it : and profited 4 in the Jews
religion above many my equals 5 in mine own
nation, being more exceedingly zealous of 6 the
traditions of my fathers.
1 omit for 2 a 3 manner of life
4 I advanced 5 beyond many of my age 6 for
St Paul is determined to allow no room for
compromise. His natural disposition inclined him
to win his way by conciliatory methods; and
34 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
possibly the turn of his expression here implies
that, in the representations of his enemies, this
willingness to make concessions to be "all things
to all men" had been brought as a charge
against him. All the more need therefore to shew
that, whatever line he may have taken on other
occasions, only one attitude could be possible for
him now, if he were to maintain his loyalty to the
Master Who was far more to him than all earthly
friends and foes.
The strength of his language is to be regarded
as the measure of his conviction. He was certain
that the message which he had delivered was not
devised by man, and could not be altered by man.
Ordinary earthly knowledge is acquired by painful
efforts of teaching and understanding, processes
which leave room for numberless possibilities of
misconception and mistake. It was far otherwise
with the heavenly knowledge which had come to
him. That had not been given and received in
the way of instruction to the intellect, but had
been flashed upon him as a revelation from above,
carrying with it to his inmost intuition its own
evidence of truth.
And indeed nothing short of a Divine inter
position could have availed to convince him. All
his previous sympathies and antipathies would
have disposed him towards quite other conclusions.
His previous manner of life had certainly given no
hint of what he was subsequently to become. No
CHAPTER I 35
fanatical adherent to Judaism could be more
hostile than he had once been ; no Rabbinical
student more zealous for the venerated traditions
of the schools. Never did man seem less likely
to ally himself to a cause than he to that which
he had once so cordially hated.
15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from
my mother s womb, and called me by his grace,
1 6 to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach
him among the heathen j 1 immediately I conferred
17 not with flesh and blood : neither went I up to
Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me ;
but I went 2 into Arabia, and returned again unto
1 Gentiles ; 2 went away
St Paul had gloried in his old title of Pharisee,
the original meaning of which was separated,
little imagining all the while that one day he would
discover that he had been set apart in the purposes
of God by a far nobler separation from his very
birth. He had thought it his mission to build
higher the dividing barriers of Judaism : it was
shewn to him that it was to be the work of his life
to evangelise the Gentiles. The revelation when
it came was so direct, and its meaning so self-
evident, that external corroboration seemed at the
time to be wholly superfluous. He needed but to
withdraw that he might ponder it and realise it in
Separate from the world, his breast
36 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
Might duly take and strongly keep
The print of Heaven. 1
Most assuredly it was not "flesh and blood"
that had revealed to him his message at the
beginning. True it was that later on, as he pro
ceeds to tell, he had some intercourse as was
fitting with the Apostles at Jerusalem ; but this
had been of the briefest character, and had left
him still a stranger to the great majority of those
who were Christians before him.
1 8 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to
19 see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But
other of the apostles saw I none, save James the
20 Lord s brother. Now the things which I write
21 unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. After
wards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia ;
22 and was unknown by face unto the churches of
23 Judaea which were in Christ : but they had heard
only, That he which persecuted us in times past
1 Christian Year for I3th Sunday after Trinity (of Moses).
The question as to the place to which St Paul went
for this retreat has been much discussed. It is difficult,
however, to think that he used the term "Arabia" here in
a different sense from that which he gives to it later in the
Epistle (iv. 25), where it can only stand for the Sinaitic
peninsula. Nor can we fail to see how fitting it would have
been that at such a time he should have felt drawn to tread
in the footsteps of Moses and Elijah. There, where the
Jewish Law had been given at the first, he might hope to be
taught what it really meant. To him also "the still, small
voice" might come with the revelation and the strength
which were needed for the work of a new prophetic mission.
CHAPTER I 37
now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.
24 And they glorified God in me.
When St Paul speaks of going to " see Peter,"
he employs a term which, as St Chrysostom
remarks, is used by those who go to see great
and famous cities. The visit was one which was
prompted by a feeling of unusual interest. It was
natural that he should desire to become closely
acquainted with one who held so prominent a
position in the Christian community.
The stay lasted about a fortnight. It included
also interviews with St James, the Bishop of
Jerusalem, as he is styled by later writers. The
other Apostles were evidently absent, engaged it may
be in some such work as that which had formerly
taken St Peter and St John to Samaria (Acts viii.).
That St Paul should lay such stress upon these
particulars is doubtless to be accounted for by
the fact that his foes had represented him as
having spent much more time with the leaders
at Jerusalem, and as having derived his informa
tion from them; in which case he might rightly
have been regarded as entirely subordinate to
them. The truth was, as he says, that he had
remained for many years almost unknown to them,
and a stranger to the Churches in Judaea. These
knew of him by report as a preacher of the Faith,
and as a most remarkable instance of the trans
forming power of Grace. They knew enough,
however, to have no doubt that the change in
38 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
him was God s doing; and it was marvellous in
So much then for the circumstances which
preceded and immediately followed the great
crisis of the Apostle s life. They were such
as rendered any ordinary explanation of his call
to Apostleship out of the question. Neither then,
nor indeed since, 1 have any attempts at such an
explanation been able to stand in the light of the
simple facts. Never had teacher better right to
feel confidence in his vocation, or to expect that it
should be recognised by others. In so far as
authority was required in order to carry conviction
of religious faith, St Paul could fearlessly maintain
that his own was inferior to that of no other man.
1 Even Baur, at the end of his life (1860), confessed that
* no psychological nor dialectical analysis could explain
the extraordinary transformation of the most vehement
adversary into the most resolute herald of Christianity ;
and that he felt constrained to call it a miracle, notwith
standing his philosophical aversion to miracles. (Schaff,
Galatians, p. 17.)
C T PAUL S intercourse with his fellow- Apostles,
^ so far as it had gone, had been of the most
friendly character. Although he had not derived
his principles from them, he had been received
by their representatives, and had been generally
honoured in the Churches of Judaea. So much
he has been able to allege in support of his
contention that he was entitled to speak with
all the authority which belonged to a Christian
But he has yet stronger evidence to adduce.
He proceeds to describe another visit which he
had made to Jerusalem, when a considerable
interval had passed. For some time he had
been engaged in missionary efforts to reach the
Gentiles, and it was in order that he might
secure the uninterrupted success of these efforts
that he gladly welcomed the opportunity which
arose of holding a conference with those whose
influence was so far-reaching as was that of the
elder Apostles in the original home of Christianity.
What befell him in this important and delicate
negotiation he now goes on to narrate with con
40 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
1 Then fourteen years after I went up again to
Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me
2 also. And I went up by revelation, and com
municated unto them that gospel which I preach
among the Gentiles, but privately to them which
were of reputation, lest by any means I should
3 run, 1 or had run, in vain. But neither 2 Titus, who
was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be
4 circumcised : and that because of false brethren
unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy
out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that
5 they might bring us into bondage : to whom we
gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour ; that
the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
1 be running 2 not even
This was the visit described in Acts xv. when
St Paul and St Barnabas were sent from the
Church of Antioch expressly for the purpose of
coming to an understanding with the authorities
at Jerusalem in regard to the action of certain
men who had been disturbing the minds and
consciences of Christians, by urging upon them
the necessity of submitting to the requirements
of the Jewish ceremonial laws.
St Paul was determined to raise the questions
at issue in the most unmistakable way, and
accordingly took with him as one of his com
panions Titus, a Christian Greek, who had never
conformed to the most elementary of those
There were public conferences and private con
sultations. These latter were held with persons
CHAPTER II 41
of position, in order, no doubt, to facilitate the
progress of the more general discussions.
St Paul s earnest desire was to gain an approval
of the line of action which he had adopted, and
so to secure that his Gentile converts should not
be interfered with. We observe that he is careful
to say "the Gospel which I preach," thereby
making it clear that he had made no subsequent
change in his position.
It is plainly evident, both from the account
here given, and from the narrative in the Acts,
that the Apostle s principles were only accepted
in the face of a strong opposition. There were
those who would have used almost any means
to bring about a decision unfavourable to his
teaching. And indeed, as we shall see, his
language even in regard to his fellow-Apostles, is
undoubtedly intended to imply that the sanction
which they gave and gave ultimately with every
sign of good fellowship would not have been
given had not the case been set before them
with a completeness of evidence and argument
which they found it impossible to resist.
6 But of these who seemed 1 to be somewhat, (what
soever they were, it maketh no matter to me : God
accepteth no man s person :) for they who seemed
to be somewhat* in conference added 3 nothing to
7 me : But contrariwise, when they saw that the
gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto
me, as the gospel of the circumcision ivas unto
1 were reputed 2 were of repute 3 imparted
42 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
8 Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in 4 Peter
to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same
9 was mighty in 5 me toward the Gentiles :) And
when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed 6 to
be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto
me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands
of fellowship ; that we should go unto the heathen, 7
10 and they unto the circumcision. Only they would
that we should remember the poor ; the same
which I also 8 was forward to do.
4 for 5 for 6 were reputed 7 Gentiles 8 the very thing I
The broken sentences tell plainly enough how
difficult St Paul found it to say what he felt
bound to say about the elder Apostles, who were
appealed to as the paramount authorities by the
Judaic teachers of the Galatians. While desiring
to speak of them with all possible respect, he
was constrained, in order to vindicate his own
independence and to correct an extravagant over
estimate of their influence and position, to make
it clear that they had contributed nothing that
was new to him of any kind. What he had
received from them was a public recognition that
he had his own work to do, in a sphere distinct
from theirs ; a work with which he had been
directly entrusted, and for which he had been
specially fitted by the Grace of God. In giving
him their pledges of friendship and loyalty, they
had only stipulated that he should think of the
needs of the poor in Judaea, as doubtless the
simplest and most efficacious way of proving that
the Gentile Christians were, in heart and sympathy,
CHAPTER II 43
one with those from whom they were parted by
so many external differences. To this St Paul
needed no urging. He had, on a previous
occasion, come to Jerusalem as the almoner of
the Church of Antioch, and in later years he was
eager to shew that he held it to be a sacred duty
to fulfil the promise which he had so willingly
Thus the great controversy upon which so
much depended, and in which so firm a stand
had to be made, ended happily with signs of
mutual regard and counsels of practical charity.
But although the controversy had been closed
at Jerusalem, it was soon to be re-opened under
circumstances which rendered it necessary that
St Paul should do even more than maintain his
assertions of equality and independence. 1
n But when Peter 1 was come to Antioch, I withstood
him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 2
12 For before that certain came from James, he did
eat with the Gentiles : but when they were come,
he withdrew ancl separated himself, fearing them
13 which were of the circumcision. And the other
Jews dissembled likewise with him ; insomuch
that Barnabas also 3 was carried away with their
1 Cephas 2 stood condemned. 3 even Barnabas
1 Nothing, we may be sure, but the conviction that the
whole future of the Gentile Ecclesiae was bound up in the
vindication of his own authentic Apostleship would have
induced St Paul to commit to paper the sad story of his
conflict with St Peter. (Dr Hort, The Christian Ecclesia,
44 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
14 dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked
not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel,
I said unto Peter 4 before them all, If thou, being
a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not
as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles
to live as do the Jews ?
As at the time of St Peter s visit St Paul and
St Barnabas were at Antioch together, it follows
that the incident here described must have
occurred soon after the apostolic conference at
St Peter, it would appear, had gone even further
in the direction of compliance than had been
definitely contemplated in the terms of the arrange
ment that had then been agreed upon (see Acts
xv. 29). Not only had he consented to see the
Gentile Christians use their liberty in the matter
of ceremonial enactments, but he himself bear
ing in mind no doubt the teaching of the vision
in which he had been shewn that it was not un
lawful to go in to men uncircumcised and eat with
them had not scrupled to join them in common
meals. And this he had continued to do until
the arrival of certain rigorists from Jerusalem ;
when, with a timidity which had on more than one
occasion previously succeeded an outburst of his
natural impetuosity, he lost the courage of his
convictions and began to withdraw from the posi
tion which he had assumed. The result was that
the rest of the Jewish Christians, and even Bar-
CHAPTER II 45
nabas, who had so thoroughly identified himself
with the cause of the Gentiles, were for the
moment swept away by the power of example and
the fear of hostile criticism ; while the impression
left on the minds of the non-Jewish converts would
naturally be that they could only hope to become
fully approved Christians by conforming them
selves in all respects to strictly Jewish ways.
That St Paul was left alone made it but the
more necessary that he should raise his voice in
protest against such manifest inconsistency and
abandonment of principle. Had it been merely
a question of personal inconsistency, we may be
sure that we should never have heard of the
matter. The issues involved were wider and more
far-reaching. For St Paul, everything that was
most vitally essential to Christianity was at stake.
How intensely he realised this we can feel as we
try to follow the closely-packed sentences which
are poured forth in quick succession, as if from a
mind and heart too fully charged and too deeply
stirred for easy and ordered utterance.
It is difficult to determine how far these sen
tences were intended to recall the lines of reason
ing actually adopted at Antioch, and how far the
Apostle may have allowed himself to be carried
on and away from the thought of the particular
argument in order to justify, perhaps as much to
himself as to the Galatians, the ardour and energy
with which he had conducted it.
46 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the
16 Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by
the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus
Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ,
that we might be justified by the faith of Christ,
and not by the works of the law : for by the works
of the law shall no flesh be justified.
These words may very well have formed part of
the address to St Peter, and they lift the discussion
at once to the highest level. It is now no ques
tion as to how their actions are likely to be re
garded by a section of their fellow-countrymen, but
of what really constituted their standing in the
sight of God. No one had taught more clearly than
St Peter that there was but one Name given under
heaven whereby men must be saved (Acts iv. 12).
Their only hope of acceptance lay, not in merits
acquired by the fulfilment of legal enactments,
but in an absolute reliance upon the Person of the
Saviour. Such a faith was equally possible for
Jew and for Gentile ; and indeed it could only be
possessed by the Jew in so far as he was prepared
to confess that his need of the Divine mercy and
forgiveness was not less than that of all others.
Upon this conviction they had been content to
act; had they done wrongly?
17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we
ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ
1 8 the minister of sin? God forbid. 1 For if I build
again the things which I destroyed, I make myself 2
1 Far from it. 2 make myself out
CHAPTER II 47
Must they admit that Christ had led them
astray in leading them to abandon the hope of
obtaining God s favour by means of the Law?
Such a thought could not be entertained for an
instant. Condemnation must rather fall upon the
one who was guilty as St Peter had been of
the inconsistency of re-erecting a structure which
he had previously demolished. With a delicacy
that was characteristic of him, St Paul uses the
first person instead of the third, thus transferring
to himself, as on a subsequent occasion (i Cor.
iv. 6), what strictly speaking applied to another.
After having thus introduced the mention of
himself, it became natural to proceed with what
was in reality a personal experience.
19 For I through the law am dead 1 to the law, that I
20 might live unto God. I am 2 crucified with Christ :
nevertheless I live ; yet not I, 3 but Christ liveth in
me : and the life which I now live in the flesh I
live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me,
21 and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate 4 the
grace of God : for if righteousness come by the law,
then Christ is dead in vain. 5
1 died 2 have been 3 and I no longer live,
4 set at nought 8 died without cause.
Speaking for himself, he was conscious that
whatever service the Law could render him was
over for ever. His connection with it had come
to a natural end. He had passed beyond it.
The Law had made him conscious of his need
of that which the Law was itself impotent to
48 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
bestow, of a life far higher and holier than any
which consisted in a mere conformity to the re
quirements of a system of conduct. That higher
life of direct relationship with God had been
opened to him through the sacrifice of Christ;
and had actually begun to be realised in him as,
ceasing from independent efforts of his own, he
had simply yielded himself in utter confidence
and devotion to the Person and to the influence
of the Son of God. To look for the perfecting
of human nature from any other source, was surely
to proclaim that God s grace and Christ s death
were alike unneeded and uncalled for.
In a later part of the Epistle we shall meet
again the thoughts which are here presented rather
as an outburst from the heart, than as the fully
reasoned conclusions of the intellect. For the
present the Apostle restrains himself in order
that he may continue to deal in an orderly way
with the situation as it has been brought before
him in the reports which have come to him.
Hitherto to sum up very briefly the contents
of these first two chapters he has been refuting
the allegations and insinuations of those who were
seeking to belittle his authority in the eyes of the
They had represented that he held a position
decidedly inferior to that of the Apostles at
Jerusalem, who had received their training and
their commission directly from the Lord Himself;
CHAPTER II 49
and they had maintained that his special doctrines
were either developed from notions of his own,
or else were distorted versions of teachings which
he had derived from others, and in either case
were entirely at variance with the views in regard
to the permanence of the Jewish law which were
held at the place from which Christianity had
gone forth to the world.
We can well imagine with what telling force
point after point of the reply must have appealed
to those who originally read or listened to the
Epistle. There is indignation in the tone, but
what is far more noticeable is the unhesitating
strength of assurance such as ever results from
the settled conviction that the speaker has truth
on his side. With the greatest dignity St Paul
asserts that his apostleship had been given him
from heaven, that his doctrine had not come
to him from his own past training, either before
or since his conversion; that he had received
it in the crisis of his life by the revelation of
our Lord Himself. He is able to prove that
his intercourse with his fellow -Apostles had not
begun until some years after the substance of his
teaching had taken shape in his mind ; and that
when he did meet them it was to discuss on
equal terms the practical difficulties which had
arisen, and would arise, as he endeavoured to
fulfil the special ministry to which he had been
appointed by God. The fact of his independence
50 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
he further illustrates by reference to an occasion
on which he had felt himself compelled to
administer a public rebuke to no less a person
than St Peter, for a course of action into which he
had allowed himself to be drawn, against his own
openly expressed convictions, by just such persons
as those who were now disturbing the Churches
of Galatia. Then, as ever, he was convinced
that in making such a protest he was contending
not merely for his own rights, but for principles
which bore most directly upon all that was most
sacred in Christian faith and life.
So far then the discussion has turned upon
matters chiefly personal to St Paul. These
having been considered, the way is now cleared,
and the Apostle can proceed to deal with the
erroneous doctrinal reasonings which had so
powerfully influenced the Galatians.
TN the words which immediately followed the
opening salutation of the Epistle, St Paul
had expressed his pained astonishment at the
distressing change which had come over his
converts in Galatia. For a while he had said no
more about this feeling, having been compelled
to enter upon a somewhat lengthened defence
of his right to speak at all. Now, with all the
added force which this argument has brought to
his authority, he returns to the standpoint of
that first personal appeal. Again he tells them
of his amazement at the strange effects that had
been produced in them. It really seemed as if
some dark spell of enchantment had been cast
upon them. How else could it have happened
that they had been turned away from truths which
had once shone out so brightly, and had more
over been verified with such unmistakable force
in their own actual experience? They had
made the change too at the bidding of men who
had never yet helped them to any real good of
i O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that
ye should not obey the truth, 1 before whose eyes
1 omit that ye should not obey the truth,
52 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
Jesus Christ hath been 2 evidently set forth, crucified
2 among you? 3 This only would I learn of you,
Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or
3 by the hearing of faith ? Are ye so foolish ? having
begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by 4
4 the flesh? Have ye suffered 5 so many things in
vain ? if it be yet in vain.
2 was 3 omit among you 4 being made perfect in
5 Did ye experience
The conduct of these Galatians seemed to
defy all attempts at reasonable explanation.
They had been brought face to face with the
most vivid presentation of the Cross of Christ;
they had received abundantly the quickening
and renewing of their inward spiritual life, when
they had yielded themselves to become disciples
of Christ; and now they seemed to expect
to continue their progress by reversing their
direction, and turning their backs upon the
whole of their previous experience. It could
only be described as an incredible folly.
If they had not entirely lost the ability to
recognise the plainest facts, let them answer a
simple question. From whence had come that
new and wonderful power which had made all
the difference to their lives?
5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit,
and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by
the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith ?
To that challenge there was but one possible
CHAPTER III 53
reply. Those who aimed at re-enforcing the
yoke of legal ordinances had no results to shew
which could be compared for a moment with the
effects which were constantly being produced by
the ministry which the Apostle had left to con
tinue the teaching which he had given.
And now, what of that teaching in itself, and
of the objections which had been brought against
it? Twice has St Paul set over against one
another the watchwords of the rival positions,
"works of the law," and "hearing of faith." He
must now address himself seriously to the task
of vindicating his doctrine, as he had already
vindicated his authority.
And in the first instance the battle must be
waged on the ground of the Old Testament. His
opponents had been wont to entrench themselves
behind the sanction which Scripture appeared to
give to their exaltation of the Mosaic law. They
could quote text after text, and display what
might easily pass for a profound understanding
of the deeper senses of the sacred writings. But
they were to find that they had more than a
match in the theologian and dialectician who was
opposed to them.
In the great passage which is to follow, we
have presented to us the line of argument which
was the means of repelling a most dangerous
assault upon Christianity, delivered as it were
54 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
from behind. And we have in it yet more than
this. Seldom have victories in controversy left
such permanent fruits. It is not too much to
say that in St Paul s reasonings are contained the
first indications of that religious philosophy of the
Old Testament which has furnished us with the
most satisfying clue we possess to the meaning of
the Divine purpose in the education of mankind.
The sentences are compressed to the utmost,
and it will be necessary to follow them with more
than ordinary attention. It is probable that to
the Galatians they served to recall previous teach
ings which would render them more easily in
telligible to them than they are to us. We need,
however, find no very great difficulty in tracing
the general course of the thought.
His enemies had appealed to the Scriptures;
to the Scriptures let them go. And let them
begin at the beginning, with the recognised father
of the Jewish race. They prided themselves that
they were the children of Abraham. Well then
how fared it with Abraham? let them read:
6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was
7 accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye
therefore that they which are of faith, the same are
8 the children of Abraham. And the scripture fore
seeing that God would justify the heathen l through 2
faith, preached before 3 the gospel unto Abraham,
9 saying^ In thee shall all nations be blessed. So
then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful
1 Gentiles 2 by 3 beforehand
CHAPTER III 55
There could be no question about the ground
of Abraham s standing in the sight of God as
it was set forth in the Scriptures. "Abraham
believed God, and it was accounted to him for
righteousness " (Gen. xv. 6). Righteousness before
God, that was what the Jewish teachers were above
all else anxious to attain to : they sought it, and
would have all men seek it, through conformity
to the requirements of the Levitical Law. But
here it is credited to Abraham before ever there
was a Law ; and for quite other reasons than any
exertions of his own on account of the faith, the
trust, and confidence which he had placed in the
word, and character, and ability of Another. It
looked therefore as if the true sons of Abraham
must be those who most resembled him in his
capacity for faith. And indeed the language of
Scripture seemed designed to warrant such an
expectation, for it had been especially declared
that in Abraham " all the nations," that is to say,
all the Gentiles, should be blessed (Gen. xii. 3,
xviii. 1 8). Here then was a proclamation of
the Gospel before the giving of the Law, an
anticipation of the wider order in which the
blessing granted to Abraham was to be shared
by all who shared his qualification to receive
Moreover, to say this was only to assert what
Scripture had expressed in other ways :
10 For as many as are of the works of the law are
56 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
under the 1 curse : for it is written, Cursed is every
one that continueth not in all things which are
1 1 written in the book of the law to do them. But
that no man is justified by the law in the sight of
God, it is evident : for, The just shall live by faith.
12 And the law is not of faith : but, The man that
doeth them shall live in them.
Could words be plainer? The Law brought
not a blessing but a curse. It had itself declared
(Deut. xxvii. 26) a curse to be the portion of those
who transgressed its provisions in any particular.
Was it in the power of any who sought to achieve
righteousness by the Law to escape that penalty ?
Then again, in a later passage (Hab. ii. 4), the
blessing of Life is distinctly promised to him who
has faith; whereas the Law (Lev. xviii. 5) knew
nothing of faith, and rested its requirements upon
an entirely different principle.
Is it asked, how then can anyone who has ever
been under the Law hope to escape from its curse,
and receive God s blessing at all? St Paul might
no doubt have replied in part by referring to the
intimations and foreshadowings of atonement for
sin furnished by the sacrifices which existed under
the Law, and indeed also before it; but he pre
ferred to proceed at once to the only complete
account of the matter.
13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law,
being made a curse for us : for it is written, Cursed
14 is every one that hangeth on a tree : that the
CHAPTER III 57
blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles
through 1 Jesus Christ ; that we might receive the
promise of the Spirit through faith.
Christ by dying had discharged the claims of
the violated law. In the very manner of His
suffering He had brought Himself under the
terms (Deut. xxi. 23) of its most extreme male
diction. He did it in order that there might
come to the whole human race, unhindered by
any obstacle, the blessing of Abraham ; in order
that Jews and Gentiles might together receive the
new life which is now again granted to faith.
Here St Paul has touched the great conclusion
towards which the whole of his argument has
been perpetually tending ; but before he could rest
in it, and expound it fully in all its bearings, it
was necessary that he should deal with certain
difficulties which were sure to arise in the minds
of his readers. They, or at all events their
Jewish advisers, would not be content to allow
that the whole question of the Law could be
settled so summarily. After all, they might well
urge, there is the existence of the Law to be
accounted for: it was Divinely appointed, had it
no use? had God two contradictory methods?
and so on.
St Paul was fully aware of the existence and
the force of objections like these, and accordingly
58 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
he applies himself to their consideration with the
utmost sympathy and skill.
The Promise, several times repeated to Abraham,
was a covenant Divinely granted and confirmed.
Such a covenant, even amongst men, when once
definitely established and duly ratified, cannot be
arbitrarily set aside; nor may it be subsequently
invalidated by the addition of new and contra
dictory clauses. How much more unchangeable
then must be the covenant made by God.
15 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men;
Though it be but a man s covenant, yet if it be
confirmed, no man disannulled, or addeth thereto.
1 6 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises
made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many ;
but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
17 And 1 this I say, that the covenant, that was con
firmed before of God in Christ, 2 the law, which
was 3 four hundred and thirty years after, cannot
disannul, that it should make the promise of none
1 8 effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no
more of promise : but God gave it to Abraham by
1 Now 2 omit in Christ 3 came
The covenant made with Abraham looked far
beyond him to a Person in the distant future in
Whom it was to be fulfilled. Accordingly the
point to be observed is this, that, as the Law
did not come until centuries after the covenant
of Promise, it is not to be imagined that the Law
had any power to cancel what had been firmly
established and accepted so long before it appeared.
CHAPTER III 59
And this clearly would have been its effect if
obedience to it had been enforced as a condition
of the fulfilment of the Promise. A promise to
which such a condition had been added would
cease to be a promise at all. The Law then,
whatever its uses might be, could certainly never
have been intended to interfere with the ante
cedent covenant of Promise.
Well then, if the Law was so distinct and so
different, what was it for? what purpose did it
serve? This is the question which must force
itself to the surface, and has to be met and
19 Wherefore then serve th the law? It was added
because of transgressions, till the seed should come
to whom the promise was made ; and it was
ordained by 1 angels in the hand of a mediator.
20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God
The Law had its purpose, important but sub
ordinate. Its purpose was to reveal to men the
sinfulness of their hearts (see Rom. iii. 20, iv. 15,
v. 20). It was a moral discipline intended to
occupy the interval, until the Promise could be
fulfilled. That the Law bore the stamp of in
feriority was to be gathered from the further fact
that, while the Promise had been directly imparted
by God Himself, the Law was communicated
through the instrumentality of angels. The
intervention of Moses too gave a distinctive
60 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
character and status to the Law. Mediation
implies arrangement between contracting parties,
whereas in the case of a promise the giver stands
apart, single and alone. 1
21 Is the law then against the promises of God ? God
forbid : l for if there had been a law given which
could have given life, verily righteousness should 2
22 have been by 3 the law. But the scripture hath
concluded 4 all under sin, that the promise by faith
of 5 Jesus Christ might be given to them that
1 Far from it ! 2 would 3 of 4 shut up 5 in
The essential difference between the Law and
the Promise being thus as great as it well could
be, are we therefore to conclude that there is
any necessary antagonism between them ? By no
means. If the Law had had for its purpose to
produce holiness of life, instead of leading merely
to a consciousness of sin, then conceivably the
two might have been rivals; but as a matter of
fact, the effect of the Law had been, as passages
previously quoted had shewn, to force men to
realise that there was but one way of escape for
them, and that the way of Faith and the accept
ance of the Promise in Christ
23 But before faith came, we were kept 1 under the
law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards
1 kept in ward
1 This would seem to be the simple, and indeed almost
obvious, explanation of ver. 20 ; a verse of which a quite
extraordinary number of interpretations have been offered.
CHAPTER III 6 1
24 be revealed. Wherefore 2 the law was our school
master 3 to bring us unto Christ, that we might be
justified by faith.
2 So that 3 became our tutor
In Greek and Roman families of rank the
moral supervision of younger children was en
trusted to a paedagogus or tutor, often a superior
slave, a sort of nursery-governor. Just such an
office as this was discharged by the Law ; by it,
those who were subjected to its rigorous constraint
v, r ere being prepared for the fuller privileges and
larger liberty which were to be given them through
Christ. The Law then had a work to do for a
25 But after 1 that faith is come, we are no longer
26 under a schoolmaster. 2 For ye are all the children 3
27 of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of
you as have been baptized into Christ have put
28 on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there
is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor
female : for ye are all one 4 in Christ Jesus.
Clearly, when the time for the new state of
things had at last arrived, the work of the
subordinate supervisor had come to an end.
For "we," yes and "ye" too, says the Apostle
all, that is to say, whether their past had been
Jewish or Gentile have been raised to the
dignity of fullgrown sons in consequence of the
new order of faith (literally "the faith") through
62 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
incorporation with Christ. This change had
come to pass when they were baptized. In the
act of baptism they had been invested with all
the privileges which can result from identifica
tion with Him. Previous barriers of disability
whether they arose from difference of religion, or
alienation of race, or the constitution of society,
or even from a distinction so primeval and natural
as that of the sexes must disappear ; for all have
common interests and share a common life, as of
a single person, when once they have been ad
mitted into the fellowship of Christ.
And certainly, not further to insist upon other
consequences, there was one consequence which
ought to be evident to all :
29 And if ye be Christ s, then are ye Abraham s seed,
and heirs according to the promise.
To be part of Christ was whatever their ante
cedents may have been to be part of Abraham s
seed, with all that this involved, in the fullest,
proudest sense in which the words could be used.
In short, there was no position, no privilege, that
any one could offer them which was not already
theirs as united to Christ, and that let them
realise it clearly quite independently of any ad
vantages which it might be imagined could be
conferred by the Law.
CHAPTER IV. 121
OT PAUL had been using language in regard
^ to the Jewish law which must have contrasted
in the most startling way with the claims made on
its behalf by the Judaizing teachers in Galatia.
According to their view of it, the Jewish legal
system was nothing less than the ideal goal
towards which the providentially guided history
of the highest religious life of the world had been
steadily moving, as to its final and complete
expression : Christianity could do no more than
help men to reach it. According to St Paul, on
the other hand, subjection to the Law, instead of
being in itself an end, was but a subordinate
and temporary means to an end ; so far from
representing the state of spiritual maturity at
which men might hope eventually to arrive, it
was in reality only a stage of tuition in which
they were detained during the years of their
The two views were irreconcilably opposed ;
and it is not therefore hard to understand the
intensity of dislike and suspicion with which not
only Jews but Judaizing Christians regarded the
name and the teaching of this Apostle.
64 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
He on his part felt it to be his solemn duty,
at whatever cost, to make clear the truth as it
had been revealed and entrusted to him ; and
he was determined to do it in such a way that
there should be no room left for mistake or
Not content therefore with what he has already
said, he returns again to the illustration which he
has been employing, and takes up for the second
time the comparison of the religious progress of
the world to the epochs of development in the
life of a child, in order that he may still more
markedly emphasise the inferiority of the con
dition of those who are subjected to the
limitations and regulations of law, and may
prove yet more irresistibly the utter unreason
ableness of going back to these when once the
time of emancipation has arrived.
1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child,
differeth nothing from a servant, though he be
2 lord of all ; but is under tutors and governors until
3 the time appointed of the father. Even so we,
when we were children, were in bondage under the
4 elements 1 of the world : but when the fulness of
the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made
5 of a woman, made under the 2 law, to redeem them
that were under the 3 law, that we might receive the
adoption of sons.
1 rudiments 2 omit the 3 omit the
The position of an heir in his infancy, though
he is prospectively lord of all, is yet for all
CHAPTER IV. 121 65
practical purposes that of a slave. He is under
orders, subjected to others who control both his
person and his property. This condition of things
continues until he attains his majority, that is
according to Hebrew custom until he reaches
the age of thirteen years and one day ; or accord
ing to Roman, which it is more likely the Apostle
had in his mind, until he has entered upon his
twenty-fifth year. In just such a position of
disability were those who were held bound under
systems which confined them to the rudiments,
the very alphabet, of what from the spiritual stand
point was itself but the most elementary sort of
It is certainly startling to find St Paul drawing
no essential distinction between the Law imposed
upon the Jews and the kind of discipline, in many
ways of course so inferior, which was provided
under paganism. Both were in their degrees pre
paratory, and both were temporary. When they
had served their purpose, and when God s time
was ripe, there was given to the world the revela
tion and the offer of sonship. The Son of God
became Man and was made subject to the Law,
in order that He might liberate men from bondage
to law whether it were Jewish or any other and
enable them to enter upon a sonship which could
not otherwise have been theirs. Adoption is the
granting by an act of favour of a sonship which
could not have been claimed as a matter of right.
66 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
Nothing moreover was lacking which could
make the evidence of this sonship complete.
6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the
Spirit of his Son into your 1 hearts, crying, Abba,
7 Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant,
but a son ; and if a son, then an heir of God
through Christ. 2
1 our 2 an heir through God.
The presence of the Spirit the power of a new
and divine life speaking in the mother tongues
of Jew and Greek, witnessed from the depths of
their hearts to the reality of their sonship to
God. If that was so, bondage had come to an
end : as sons they had entered upon the inherit
ance which had come to them, not indeed by any
efforts or deservings of their own, but solely
through a gracious provision on the part of
The least that could be required from them was
that they should avail themselves of the freedom
which had been granted to them. Whatever they
might have been content to do while the old life
lasted, now their aims and their interests ought to
correspond with their altered position.
8 Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did
service 1 unto them which by nature are no gods.
9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather
are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak
1 were in bondage
CHAPTER IV. 121 67
and beggarly elements, 2 whereunto ye desire again
10 to be in bondage ? Ye observe days, and months,
1 1 and times, 3 and years. I am afraid of you, lest I
have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
2 rudiments, 3 seasons,
There was a time when, through ignorance of
the true God, they as Gentiles had lived in a
condition of fearful subjection to things which at
best were semblances of the divine, no real gods
at all. That time was now past. They had been
brought to recognise God, or, as it were better to
say, they had been owned and recognised by God.
On what principle then were they turning back
to the old outworn childish stage, and wishing
to condemn themselves to undergo it all over
again? True, it was towards a Jewish and not
a Gentile form of it that they were inclining ; but
when compared with the privileges and experiences
to which they had advanced, it was weak and poor
enough, most unhelpful and utterly unsatisfying.
What with their anxious and slavish observance
of sabbaths, new moons, Jewish festivals, and
sacred years, it really looked as if the labour spent
in making them Christians had been labour thrown
away. St Paul evidently did not think that it was
worth while to have toiled as he had done merely
for the sake of turning people from heathens into
Jews. It was in his opinion quite too absurd
that grown men should wish to be sent back again
to the sing-song alphabet of the infant class.
68 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
The Apostle has not yet concluded his dis
cussion of the doctrinal question, but for a
moment or two he pauses in his argument, as was
constantly his habit, in order that he may find
room for some words of the nature of a personal
appeal. He realises no doubt that his rebuke of
the folly of the Galatians may read somewhat
sternly; and the reference to his labours among
them has called up memories which would strongly
dispose him to write very differently if only he
dared. At all events, they must understand that
his severity does not arise from any sense of
personal ill-treatment, but simply and solely from
a most tender concern for their well-being.
12 Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am ; for I am as
13 ye are : ye have not injured me at all. Ye know
how through 1 infirmity of the flesh I preached the
14 gospel unto you at the first. And my 2 temptation
which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected ;
but received me as an angel of God, eve?i as Christ
1 on account of 2 your
Whether they are prepared to take their place
as Sons or not, he at all events will claim them
as Brothers. His dearest wish, for the further
ance of which he has already made the greatest
sacrifices, is that no sort of difference or distinction
should exist between him and them. Certainly they
had never given him any cause to complain of their
conduct in the past. Their treatment of him had,
CHAPTER IV. 121 69
on the contrary, been extraordinarily generous.
When he stayed with them on the first occasion
that he visited them, he had been forced to do so
by a serious and distressing illness; and yet, so
far from regarding him with indifference or
aversion on account of his infirmity, as they might
naturally have been tempted to do, they had
received him with the utmost love and veneration. 1
No one could possibly have been more honoured
than he had been by them. Why then this
change that had come over their feelings towards
15 Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for
I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye
would have plucked out your own eyes, and have
1 6 given them to me. Am I therefore become your
enemy, because I tell you the truth ?
They had risen up and called him blessed. No
words that they could use were too strong to
express their gratitude. And there was literally
nothing that they would not have done to relieve
his sufferings or to attest their devotion. Could
it be that all this had utterly vanished simply
1 Compare the well-known scene in the history of the
ancestors of these very Galatians, when in the sack of Rome
the Gauls had first regarded the Roman senators in the Forum
as something more than human, and then, the moment that
the spell of reverence was broken, put them all to death
primo ut deos venerati, deinde ut homines despicati inter-
fecere. (Stanley, Sermons and Essays on the Apostolic
Age, p. 210.)
70 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
because he had told them and was telling them
He knew that others were endeavouring to
supplant him in their affections ; and he knew also
that their show of interest was utterly insincere.
17 They zealously affect 1 you, but not well ; yea, they
would exclude you, that ye might affect 2 them.
1 8 But 3 it is good to be zealously affected always in a
good thing? and not only when I am present
19 with you. My little children, of whom I travail in
20 birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire
to be present with you now, and to change my
voice ; for I stand in doubt of you.
1 earnestly desire 2 earnestly desire 3 Now
4 to be earnestly desired in a good cause always,
The Galatians were being courted by men whose
aim was not really to serve them, but rather to
bring about a situation in which court should be
paid to themselves. Not that St Paul would find
fault with zealous attentions from any quarter,
provided only the motive were an honourable one ;
nor did he wish to complain of their receiving
such from others than himself in his absence,
although indeed he could not forget that he stood
to them in a relationship very different from that
which any new friends could possibly aspire to
hold. He had addressed them as his Brothers,
but in truth they were far more to him than
brothers; they were his Children towards whom
he had felt, and was even yet feeling, what could
only be likened to a mother s pangs.
CHAPTER IV. 121 7*
There was nothing that he had undergone for
them that he would not undergo again, if only he
might see, not the formalities of ceremonialism,
but the character of Christ developing and in
creasing among them. Would that he were not
so far away, for then perhaps he might be able to
change the tone of severity which in his uncertainty
and perplexity he had found it impossible to avoid.
CHAPTER IV. 21 V. 13
T F St Paul had his doubts of the Galatians, he
*- is determined that they shall have no doubts
whatever as to himself or his meaning. He has
been setting before them a great argument from
history. They may have found it somewhat
difficult reading. He will give them now what
will perhaps more readily appeal to their imagina
tions. Let them listen then to an illustration
of the matter such as their Judaistic teachers
loved to extract from the Scriptures.
21 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye
22 not hear the law ? For it is written, that Abraham
had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the
23 other by a freewoman. But he who was of the
bondwoman was born after the flesh ; but he of
24 the freewoman was by promise. Which things
are an allegory : for these 1 are the two covenants ;
the one from the Mount Sinai, which gendereth 2
25 to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is
Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem
which now is, and 3 is in bondage with her children.
26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the
27 mother of us all. 4 For it is written, Rejoice, thou
barren that bearest not ; break forth and cry, thou
that trayailest not : for the desolate hath many
more children than she which hath an husband.
1 these women 2 bearing children 3 for she
4 our mother.
CHAPTER IV. 21 V. 13 73
As at the beginning of his doctrinal argument, so
now again at the close of it, St Paul directs atten
tion to Abraham. Their new instructors would
have them to become children of Abraham ; but
let them not forget that, according to the sacred
narrative, Abraham had two sorts of children,
differing very widely in regard both to position
There was the child of Hagar the bondmaid,
which was born in the ordinary course of nature ;
and there was the child of Sarah the true wife, the
free woman, bom in fulfilment of the promise.
Now all this had been and might well be re
garded as containing an allegory. For just as
there were these two mothers of old, so were there
two Covenants now. One of these Covenants
was given, not in the land of promise but far
outside it in Arabia, from Mount Sinai, where
Hagar s descendants live, and which is actually
called by her name. 1 This Hagar-like Covenant
1 This seems to be implied by the reading of the generally
received text. The problem of interpretation would be
considerably simplified if we might, with several ancient
authorities, omit the word " Hagar" altogether from ver. 25
and read, " For Sinai is a mountain in Arabia."
In support of the supposition that Hagar was a name for
Mt. Sinai we have only testimonies to this effect by
Chrysostom in the fourth century, and by a Bohemian
traveller Haraut at the end of the sixteenth. There is an
Arabic word of somewhat similar sound but different ety
mology, which signifies a stone, and of course it is just
74 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
belongs to the same order of things and is repre
sented by the present earthly Jerusalem which is
in bondage both politically and spiritually.
But there is also another Covenant. In one
sense it was a later Covenant, though in reality
a much older one, inasmuch as the Promise had
been given many years before the child of the
bondmaid was born. As Hagar is Sinai and the
material Jerusalem, so Sarah is the ideal and
heavenly Jerusalem emancipated from all worldly
limitations, a free mother of the free.
Her children, like Isaac, may be long in coming,
but indeed they will come as the prophet foretold
(Is. liv. i.). And just as the name Isaac meant
"laughter," even so shall there be joy at their
birth ; nor would it be long before they far out
numbered their rivals.
However, it ought not to be surprising if in the
meantime they found themselves regarded and
treated with considerable jealousy and arrogance :
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children
29 of promise. But as then he that was born after
the flesh persecuted him that was born after the
Spirit, even so it is now.
The children of promise must expect very much
the same kind of treatment in any age. It was
scarcely to be hoped that they should be left to
possible that St Paul might have heard it applied to the
rocks of Sinai by the Arabs during his sojourn in the
CHAPTER IV. 21 V. 13 75
enjoy their inheritance in peace. Hagar s son in
the eld time vexed the true seed, and her children
would not do otherwise now. But this only means
that now as then a strong and determined course
must be taken.
30 Nevertheless 1 what saith the scripture? Cast out
the bondwoman and her son : for the son of the
bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the
The instinct of Sarah was a true one, and was
approved by God (Gen. xxi. 10, 12). There
could be no compromise then ; there ought to be
no compromise now. The Law must disappear
to make room for the Gospel.
It is scarcely possible, wrote Bishop Lightfoot,
to estimate the strength of conviction and depth
of prophetic insight which this declaration implies.
The Apostle thus confidently sounds the death-
knell of Judaism at a time when one half of
Christendom clung to the Mosaic law with a
jealous affection little short of frenzy, and while
the Judaic party seemed to be growing in influ
ence, and was strong enough, even in the Gentile
churches of his own founding, to undermine his
influence and endanger his life. 1
So far from shrinking from the application of
his conclusion, the Apostle only longs to impart
1 Galatians, p. 181.
76 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
something of his own conviction and courage to
30 So then, brethren, we are not children of the
1 bondwoman but of the free. 1 Stand fast therefore
in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,
and be not entangled again with the 2 yoke of
1 free woman. 2 a
As they were not children of a bondmaid of
any form, that is, of bondage, whether Jewish or
Gentile so must they stand erect and refuse
to bend their necks to any yoke of slavery. They
were bound to use their liberty as a duty which
they owed to Christ. 1
St Paul is prepared to stake his authority and
his reputation upon this single issue. There is
nothing which he would affirm with more absolute
assurance than the impossibility of combining
Judaism with Christianity.
2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circum-
3 cised Christ shall 1 profit you nothing. For I testify
again to every man that is circumcised, that he is
4 a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of
no effect unto you, 2 whosoever of you are 3 justified
by the law ; ye are fallen from grace.
1 will 2 lit. Ye are brought to nought from Christ,
3 are being
1 The Greek text of ver. I is a matter of considerable
uncertainty. The earlier part of the verse is noted in the
critical edition of Westcott and Hort as incapable of being
rectified without the aid of conjecture. There can be no
question that the A. V. gives us the general meaning correctly.
CHAPTER IV. 21 V. 13 77
Deliberately to adopt ceremonial Judaism could
only be to abandon Christianity. Anyone who
suffered himself to be circumcised must be given
to understand that he was taking upon himself
the obligation to do all that the Law required.
And let them remember that if they did under
take this, they could look for no benefit or help
from Christ, for in the act by which they thus
bound themselves to seek their salvation by Law
they would have renounced their connection with
Him, and would have lapsed from dependence
The Christian hope looks in a wholly different
5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of
6 righteousness by faith. 1 For in Jesus Christ
neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncir-
cumcision ; but faith which worketh by 2 love.
1 by faith wait for the hope of righteousness.
2 working through
Christians are expectantly looking for righteous
ness, not from any imagined fleshly advantages
but through a change wrought upon the spirit;
not by merits which they themselves may acquire,
but by faith in the goodness and grace of God in
Christ. They need, therefore, never fear that
in coming to Christ as Gentiles they had missed
anything that could have been theirs had they
been originally Jews. Once united to Christ the
former outward condition could signify nothing,
78 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
the one thing of importance then being that their
faith should evidence its vitality by deeds of love.
Faith, and Hope, and Love : that is the path
of the Christian. And they had been going so
7 Ye did run well ; who did hinder you that ye
8 should not obey the truth ? This persuasion
9 cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven
leaveneth the whole lump.
Certainly the change was no work of God
Who was ever calling them onward. It could only
be the result of an evil influence gradually spread
ing among them, against the mischievous effects of
which they had not been, and still were not,
sufficiently on their guard.
St Paul would have little anxiety about them
if only they could be left undisturbed.
10 I have confidence in you through 1 the Lord, that
ye will be none otherwise minded : but he that
troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever
11 he be. And I, brethren, if I yet preach circum
cision, why do I yet suffer persecution ? then is the
12 offence of the cross ceased. I would they were
even cut off 2 which trouble 3 you.
1 with regard to you in
2 would even mutilate themselves 3 unsettle
The author of all the trouble, the ringleader in
the disturbance, would most certainly meet with his
punishment, whatever might be his position in
Had he ventured to insinuate that sometimes
CHAPTER IV. 21 V. 13 79
St Paul could, when it suited his purpose, make
a point of circumcision, relying perhaps on the
case of Timothy, whose circumcision as the son
of a Jewish mother had been judged to be
expedient under very exceptional circumstances?
There was a very practical answer to any such
If circumcision were a part of his Gospel, why
should he be continually followed and vexed by
these people? If he were really a preacher of
circumcision, if, that is to say, he made it under
all circumstances an essential of salvation, then
surely the main objection which they had to
the doctrine of Christ crucified would have
No, it was utterly false and wrong; patience
failed in speaking of such men. He could wish
that these disturbers of others would practise
on themselves ; would that they were excised (this
is his terrible play upon the words) as well as
circumcised. If only they could be got to imitate
those emasculated priests of Cybele whom the
Galatians knew so well, there might be an end
to their mischief. Then, at all events, they would
be seen to be the pagans that they were.
CHAPTER V. 13 END.
CT PAUL has been meeting one by one the
^ charges of his opponents. They had denied
his Apostolic authority; and he has shewn most
conclusively the grounds on which it rested. They
had denounced his doctrine as new, which on
their lips meant that it was false. He has allowed
that it was new in the sense that it had come to
him newly, by a direct revelation from heaven,
and not at second hand from other men; but in
no other sense than that. He has maintained that
it was to be found in the earliest chapters of the
Scriptures, and that it was moreover the only true
key to the understanding of the meaning of God s
dealings with man.
So far then it had been a question mainly of
his right to teach, and of the truth of his teaching ;
but even now the controversy could not be regarded
as ended. There still remained the further insinu
ation as to the practical effects of the teaching upon
actual life. The discussion therefore must now
pass out from the study and the lecture-room into
the arena of ordinary experience.
St Paul s enemies had been bold to assert that
his doctrines were as unsafe in practice as they
were in principle unsound. And here no doubt
CHAPTER V. 13 END 81
they imagined that they occupied a position from
which it would not be easy to dislodge them. Had
not the Lord laid it down that " a good tree cannot
bring forth evil fruit," and that " by their fruits ye
shall know them " ? What, they would con
fidently demand, was likely to follow from telling
men that they might ignore the restrictions and
dispense with the safeguards of the Moral Law?
Could there be a second opinion as to what the
inevitable effects of such preaching must be ?
If ever teacher refused to face the practical
outcome of his teaching, that teacher was certainly
not St Paul. We know well how constantly it
was his habit in his Epistles to pass from doctrinal
statement and exposition to consider in the most
thorough manner the bearing of what had been
said upon the minutest details of everyday conduct.
No one could realise more strongly than he did
that the whole issue in this dispute was ultimately
a practical one : no one could have been more
determined to make it such. He writes under
the deep conviction that upon the decision which
the Galatians arrived at must depend the whole
direction and character of their lives. And having
this in view, his protest is unhesitatingly for faith
and for freedom.
The Judaizers were all for a policy of safety.
To tell men that they might, from the very outset
of their religious career, rejoice in the assurance
of their acceptance by God and rely for their
82 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
direction upon the inner movements of His Grace,
was to their minds exceedingly dangerous. They
would have men kept in doubt and held in lead
ing-strings. It was the policy of those who had
no real trust in God or hope for human nature ;
of those in whose own souls the life of the Spirit
was at the lowest ebb.
Against such a policy St Paul declared the most
uncompromising warfare. Away with doubt,
he cries (unless indeed we have wholly mis
conceived his meaning) ; It is neither fair to
God nor man. You need not be afraid of Faith.
It is Doubt that is deadly and dangerous. By
faith the soul is strengthened and inspired. And
away with leading-strings : to hold men in these
is to condemn them to a perpetual infancy. The
strong new life which comes through Christ may
be trusted to take care of itself.
They were for the timid course ; he was for the
bold. They were for trying to make the best
of the old nature ; he was for relying upon the
growth and development of the new. Beyond
all else he was fighting for Liberty. He has used
the word already, and he will use it again. He
has no fear at all of what will follow from the true
freedom of the Spirit.
Accordingly he proceeds to recommend and
13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty ;
only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh,
CHAPTER V. 13 END 83
14 but by love serve one another. For all the law is
fulfilled in one word, even in this ; Thou shalt love
1 5 thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour
one another, take heed that ye be not consumed
one of another.
They were intended for liberty ; but not of
course liberty of the flesh. It was here that the
false teachers, whose conceptions of life were so
limited and materialised, had always failed to
make the true distinction. Liberty is not to be
confounded with license. License is allowing
free play to the worst. Liberty is the predom
inance of the best. Hence it is that Liberty,
paradoxical as it may sound, is the complete
fulfilling of Law; for Liberty is the service of
Love. Without love as perhaps it would be well
for those who were splitting themselves into such
violent factions in defence of law to remember
men might very easily sink to the condition of wild
beasts, hateful and destructive.
1 6 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall
not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth
against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh :
and 1 these are contrary the one to the other : so
that ye cannot 2 do the things that ye would. But
if ye be led of 3 the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
1 for 2 may not 3 by
Let them fearlessly follow the higher, and they
will be released from the tyranny of the lower.
The lower appetite and the higher aspiration are
in active opposition the one against the other,
84 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
with the result that each tends to paralyse the
working of the other, whether it be inclined
towards the evil or towards the good. What was
needed was the strengthening of the spiritual.
They had but to secure this, and then yield
themselves freely to its influence, and they would
find that they had attained the very object of the
Law, and had at the same time been lifted above
the necessity for it. The strengthening of the
good would do more for them than any mere
battling with the bad.
Did any still say, But tell us exactly what
the life would be like that is lived under the
influence of the Spirit ? They had better think
first what the life is like when the flesh is left
free to do as it pleases. In this way they will
more thoroughly realise the greatness of the
contrast. The results of the unchecked action
of the flesh are unhappily but too evident and
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are
these-, Adultery, 1 fornication, uncleanness,lascivious-
20 ness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emula-
21 tions, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings,
murders, ^ drunkenness, revellings, and such like :
of the which I tell you before, as I have also told
you in time past, that they which do such things
shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
1 omit Adultery, 2 omit murders,
Such are the products of the lower nature when
left to itself. The horrid enumeration follows a
CHAPTER V. 13 END 85
natural order. The list begins with sins against
self (see i Cor. vi. 18), sins of impurity increasing
in wantonness ; sins so universal among the
heathen that no ancient moralist ever thought
of pronouncing an absolute condemnation against
them. Then come what were more directly sins
against God; idolatry, the open recognition of
false gods, and sorcery, the secret tampering with
the powers of evil. Finally, there are the sins
against society, beginning with hatreds cherished in
the heart, leading on to rivalries and contentions
and the indulgence of passions which destroy all
proper bonds of union among men, and substitut
ing for them forms of fellowship which are even
yet more fatal than the divisions.
Of such things a Christian Apostle can but
declare that the practice of them must shut men
out from any share in the blessings of God s true
order, here or hereafter.
Over against such dreadful deeds let them now
set the natural effect, the ripening result, of the
unhindered life of the Spirit.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-
23 suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness,
temperance : against such there is no law.
It will be best to defer the detailed study of the
parts which constitute this wondrous whole until
we are able to consider them more fully in a
section by themselves. 1 Enough for the present
1 See pp. 112133.
86 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
to say that here too as in the former list, the
arrangement has its method. As then, so now
also, the division will be found to be threefold,
corresponding again to the same three great
aspects of life, but with a significant change in
We shall shew that there is good reason for
thinking that the words, " Love, Joy, Peace," have
reference to the life of a Christian in his inter
course with God.
The four next, " Longsuffering, Gentleness,
Goodness, Faith," plainly describe the qualities
which should characterise him in his bearing
towards his fellow-men. By " Faith " appears to
be meant, not the theological virtue which occupies
a very different position in the spiritual develop
ment, being of the root rather than of the fruit ;
not, that is to say, faith towards God, but faith
in the other sense in which St Paul employs the
term, as trust, belief, reliance shewn towards men. 1
Then, finally, we have the description of the life
in respect of self. While in the account of "the
works of the flesh " considerations of self came
1 e.g. in Eph. i. 15 (if the strongly-supported reading
adopted in the R. V. be correct) : and possibly in Philemon 5.
Compare also I Cor. xiii. 7.
If "faith" be not thus interpreted here, the alternative
would be to render the word (TTIO-TIS) so translated in the
A.V. by faithfulness or fidelity. Instances in which
it has this meaning are frequent in the LXX. In the N.T. it
occurs in this sense in Tit. ii. 10, and perhaps in St Matt,
CHAPTER V. 13 END 87
first, here they occupy the last place. Two words
contain all that needs to be said. The really
free life of the Spirit will culminate in " Meek
ness," by which is meant a due estimate of the
place which self ought to hold; and "Temper
ance " (in its widest meaning of self-control),
which is the rigorous determination to see to
it that self is kept in its place.
Such is the rich cluster which St Paul holds
up to view. He might confidently have
challenged all the moralities and all the religions
to produce the like, or even to shew that they
had so much as contemplated such an ideal as
in the very least degree possible of attainment.
His actual conclusion is a much more modest
one. He is content to remark not without a
touch of irony in his tone that these things do
not seem to call for the interference of legislation !
If such are the effects of Liberty, the Galatians
need not have any misgivings as to what would
result from boldly obeying the impulses and
dictates of their spiritual nature. There was,
moreover, a yet further reason pointing in the
same direction :
24 And they that are Christ s 1 have crucified the flesh
with the affections and lusts.
1 of Christ Jesus
In the case of those who have been brought into
union with Christ, not only has the good in them
88 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
been renewed and strengthened, but the evil has
received its death-sentence and indeed its death
blow. In the very act through which they were
joined to Christ there was a participation in His
death. The crucifixion of the flesh is not the
work of a moment ; but the evil element in those
who have received the new life is dying, and will
die with all its energies.
Here, then, is the only true and safe conclusion
of the matter :
25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the
26 Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vainglory, 1 pro
voking one another, envying one another.
The one aim of Christians must be to advance
in the life of the Spirit. In this heavenly rivalry
they may freely engage with each other, but in
no lower forms of less honourable competition.
~PHE Epistle has reached its climax, and pre-
pares to draw to its close. What is to
follow is very largely of the nature of a postscript.
St Paul naturally desires to leave the main
thoughts of his letter as the last impression on
the mind. To do this with the greatest possible
emphasis he will take the pen from the amanuensis
and write the final message with his own hand.
But before he does so he has an appeal to
make, in regard to their personal relations one
with another. He introduces it by the word
"Brothers!" As Bengel truly says, A whole
argument lies hidden under this one word.
It was a word very specially dear to St Paul,
as is strikingly shewn by a reference in one of
his speeches recorded in the Acts. He was
describing the circumstances of his conversion.
More than twenty years had passed, but the
facts stood out in vivid detail before his mind.
And among the memories of that wonderful time
was one which had a peculiar tenderness of its
own. Never could he forget the first welcome
addressed to him by a Christian man. " He came
unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother "
90 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
(compare Acts xxii. 13 with ix. 17). In that
single word was gathered up a whole revelation of
newly found sympathy and helpfulness. We need
not wonder therefore that he uses it now when
he is pleading for the exercise of just these
qualities, the need for which was by no means
confined to the outset of a Christian career.
i Brethren, if a man be 1 overtaken in a fault, ye
which are spiritual, restore such an one in the
spirit of meekness ; considering thyself, lest thou
also be tempted. Bear ye one another s burdens,
and so fulfil the law of Christ.
1 should be
St Paul s appeal is to those who claimed to
have made most progress in the life of sanctification.
He calls upon such to aid their brethren who
may be lagging behind. Possibly, when he uses
the expression, " Ye that are spiritual," he has in
view some of his converts who may have stood
firm to their old allegiance, and may have been
disposed to congratulate themselves that they at
all events had not been carried away into the
errors which he had so sharply condemned. If
so, he would have them evidence their spirituality
by shewing a more than ordinary degree of meek
ness and love.
However flagrant the offence, those who were
really living a higher life must help and reinstate
the guilty one : not proudly, with any conscious
ness of their own superiority, but rather as
CHAPTER VI 91
remembering that at any moment any one of
them might be tempted, and might be in no less
need of forgiveness and loving restoration.
Some among them desired did they ? to have
burdens imposed upon them, and to obey a law.
Here then was their opportunity; let them be
burdens of sympathy, in the bearing of which
they would be fulfilling the most perfect of all
laws, "the law " not of Moses but " of Christ.
3 For if a man think himself to be something, when
4 he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every
man prove his own work, and then shall he have
rejoicing 1 in himself alone, and not in another.
5 For every man shall bear his own burden.
1 his glorying
The poorest of all sources of satisfaction is
that of the man who comforts himself by con
trasting his own imagined superiority with the
faults which he perceives in his neighbour. If
a man wishes to boast, let his boasting be at least
for some merit of his own. Let him not think
to excuse himself by dwelling upon the weaknesses
of others. The load of personal responsibility is
one which can never be shifted. Each man will
be called upon to answer directly to God for
what he has done.
But sympathy and helpfulness are not to be
confined to spiritual things. They may well begin
with these, but they must not end with them.
And so there follow some very earnest and
92 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
practical exhortations as to certain forms of duty
which might easily be overlooked.
6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate
7 unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not
deceived ; God is not mocked : for whatsoever a
8 man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that
soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption ;
but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit
9 reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in
well doing : for in due season we shall reap, if we
10 faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let
us do good unto all ;<?, especially unto them who
are of the household of faith.
It looks as if the Galatians had been remiss in
this matter of liberality. They had been asked
to make contribution for the brethren of Judaea
(i Cor. xvi. i), but we do not know that they did
so. It is clear that St Paul felt it necessary to
speak very strongly to them about the dangers of
niggardliness. It had evidently come to his ears
that they had not treated those who were their
appointed ministers with a proper generosity.
In writing to the Corinthians about almsgiving
(2 Cor. ix. 6), St Paul says, "He that soweth
sparingly shall reap also sparingly." Here he
employs the same illustration, but he enforces it
much more strongly. He bids the Galatians
recollect that though they might deceive them
selves, there was One Who could not be cheated
by fair professions. There was no favouritism
in God s dealings. It would be with Christian
men just as with any others. What men sowed
CHAPTER VI 93
in this world that they reaped. If they sowed
the sort of seed which was calculated to grow in
the low part of their nature, it would grow there,
and end in rottenness ; only if they sowed in the
spiritual soil could they reap the reward of Life.
In their own interests, then, let them never lose
heart in doing right, or grow tired of honourable
deeds : the recompense might seem to be long
in coming, but it would come like the harvest
at its proper time. Life is the chance of doing
good. Let them do it on as large a scale as
possible, but let their well-doing begin at home
with the Family of the Faith.
Had the condition of the Galatian Church
been at all an ordinary one, St Paul might have
ended this Epistle in what would have been for
him the ordinary way. In this case we should
have had little further than a commendation of
himself to the prayers of his readers, and a bene
diction of farewell.
But such an ending in the present case might,
and probably would, have conveyed an erroneous
impression. It might have led to the inference
that the mind of the writer was more at ease than
it really was. It might even have seemed as if
something of the heat of the earlier parts of the
letter had been kindled to meet the requirements
of controversy, and had begun to abate as these
had given way before the practical conclusions of
94 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
the calmer judgment. The Apostle is determined
yet once again to make misunderstanding impos
sible. In his own handwriting they shall have the
proof that his attitude is never in the very least de
gree likely to change. His earnestness is the result
of settled conviction and unwavering devotion.
He knows these men as the Galatians do not
their aims and their insincerity. And he knows
also that the things which they disparage and de
nounce are the things which are the most sacred
realities of life. There can be no truce between
him and them. The Galatians must take their
own line. He can only tell them that he has for
ever taken his.
1 1 Ye see how large a letter 1 I have written 2 unto you
12 with mine own hand. As many as desire to make
a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be
circumcised ; only lest they should suffer perse-
13 cution for the cross of Christ. For neither they
themselves who are circumcised keep the law ; but
desire to have you circumcised, that they may
14 glory in your flesh. But God forbid 3 that I should
glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by whom 4 the world is crucified unto me, and I
15 unto the world. For in Christ Jesus 5 neither cir
cumcision availeth 6 anything, nor uncircumcision,
1 6 but a new creature. And as many as walk 7
according to this rule, peace be on them, and
17 mercy, and upon the Israel of God. From hence
forth let no man trouble me : for I bear in my
body the marks of the Lord 8 Jesus.
1 in what large letters 2 write
3 far be it from me 4 through which
5 omit in Christ Jesus 6 is
7 shall walk 8 omit the Lord
CHAPTER VI 95
The boldness of the hand-writing is to be
regarded as indicative of the force of his con
viction. Let them take it from him, these zealous
proselytizers had their own interests to serve.
They did not sincerely believe in the value of
circumcision : they were not themselves consistent
observers of the Law (compare St John vii. 19).
Their objects were selfish and worldly. They
wanted to avoid being hated as those were hated
who proclaimed a crucified Messiah. They
wished to obtain the credit which would be
obtained if they could point to a large following
of outward adherents.
For himself, he had no care to boast but in the
Cross of his Lord, through which worldliness and
selfishness had alike received their death-blow for
him. He lightly esteemed the tokens of visible
success, for he had learnt that the true criterion
by which to judge in religion was, not any old-
world form of distinction which was outward in
the flesh, but the deep inward evidence of the
presence of the new-creating Spirit of God. The
Cross through which the old nature should be
put to death, and the Power which could lead
to newness of life these and these only were of
the essence of Christianity.
Against those who refused such a ruling there
could only be war without quarter, but upon all
who were prepared to adhere to it and in
them the true Israel would be found he invoked
96 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
the Peace and the Mercy which were the portion
of the People of God.
As for himself, it ought to be plain what he
was. If men must judge by outward tokens, they
might observe that he carried on his body the
scars, the brands of his Master. For them
and once more he claims them as "Brothers"
he can only pray with all his heart that they
may be drawn into ever closer and more vital
union and fellowship with his Lord and theirs.
1 8 Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be
with your spirit. Amen.
Here, then, we take our leave of the Epistle as a
whole. We shall enter somewhat further into the
consideration of some particular expressions which
seem to call for a rather fuller treatment than has
been possible in the course of a general exposition ;
but it will not be necessary to go back upon the
general argument again. We have tried to trace
its outlines, and to form some conception of its
power and its scope.
How far it availed for its immediate purpose,
our knowledge does not enable us to say. We
have no idea in what spirit the letter was received,
or what lasting impression it made upon those for
whose sake it was written. Perhaps we might be
justified in concluding, from the mere fact of its
preservation, that it did meet with respectful atten
tion and was looked upon as a possession of
CHAPTER VI 97
In regard to the influence which it has exerted
upon the Church at large, there can be no question
at all. That the young life of Christianity was not
stifled in the swaddling-clothes of a narrow and
rigid Judaism was, humanly speaking, due to St
Paul. The literature which has come down to us
from the age immediately succeeding that of the
Apostles is comparatively scanty, but yet it amply
suffices to shew that the results of the teaching
of which at one time St Paul was the single
exponent, had been loyally accepted by those
who were regarded by the Church as the truest
representatives of the Apostolic tradition.
Do we not catch an echo of our Epistle in
words like these from the lips of the martyr
Ignatius ? If any one propound Judaism to
you, hear him not : for it is better to hear
Christianity from a man who is circumcised, than
Judaism from one uncircumcised. If we live
after the manner of Judaism, we avow that we have
not received grace. 1 Utterances such as these
written in the early years of the second century
and it would be easy to multiply quotations 2
prove clearly enough how victorious had been the
issue of that struggle for liberty which had seemed
at its crisis to depend upon the strength and
1 Ep. to the Philadelphia, 6. Ep. to the Magnesians, 8.
2 e.g. Ep. of Barnabas, 9. The circumcision, in which
they have confidence, is abolished ; for He hath said that a
circumcision not of the flesh should be practised.
98 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
courage of an individual man battling against the
most tremendous odds.
We can then estimate in part the effect which
has been produced by the protest of St Paul ; but
only in part. Its influence was not exhausted, nor
was its work completed, in the earliest centuries
of which Church history tells. Again and again it
has made itself heard, sometimes to unwilling ears,
sometimes to eager hearts. The thought of St
Paul was the inspiring force in the souls of those
who felt that they were fighting over again his
battle at the time of the Reformation; and no
extravagance into which some of them may have
been betrayed can make us shut our eyes to the
immense value of the service which they rendered
to the great common cause of faith and intel
Nor can we imagine that truth, which has been
so potent in the past, is to be without its effects in
the present and the future. Such teachings as
those we have been endeavouring to re-learn have a
permanent office to fulfil, and that can be no healthy
stage in the life of the Church in which they are
allowed to remain for long forgotten or unheeded.
Our study of them will not have been without its
reward if it has helped us, even a little more
clearly, to catch the notes of the strong trumpet
call which reaches us coming across the long
centuries shall we not rather say, coming down
from the height far above us? bidding us to
CHAPTER VI 99
press onward and strive upward, in the humble
yet confident hope that at length we may attain,
through Faith and Patience, to that which God
in His goodness would have each one of us
ST PAUL S TEACHING AS TO
A GAIN and again in reading this Epistle as
*** indeed in reading any of his Epistles we
are struck by the force and the frequency with
which St Paul accentuates the importance of a
right understanding of the Privileges of the
Christian s Position in the sight of God. He is
perpetually impressing upon his readers the great
principle that it could only be as they attained to
a clear and thankful sense of what God had done
for them, that they could even begin to think as
they should about that which they on their part
were bound to do for God.
We shall best be able to gain a true idea of
what St Paul intended to convey in these chapters
if we review the expressions which he employs,
and then try to get some conception of their
meaning and relation one to another. In the
list which follows, we have but arranged these
expressions in the order in which they occur. It
will be seen at a glance that the order is in itself
a most suggestive one.
CHRISTIAN PRIVILEGE 101
IN CHRIST, i. 22.
IN CHRIST JESUS, ii. 4.
JUSTIFIED by the faith of Jesus Christ, ii. i6a.
JUSTIFIED by the faith of Christ, ii. 166.
JUSTIFIED by Christ, ii. 17.
CRUCIFIED with Christ, ii. 20.
REDEEMED from the curse, iii. 13.
JUSTIFIED by faith, iii. 24.
SONS OF GOD by faith in Christ Jesus, iii. 26.
BAPTIZED INTO CHRIST, iii. 27^.
PUT ON CHRIST, iii. 27^.
IN CHRIST JESUS, iii. 28.
CHRIST S, iii. 29.
THE ADOPTION OF SONS. iv. 5.
SONS. iv. 6.
A SON. iv. 7.
A SON. iv. 7&
AN HEIR through God. iv. jf.
CHILDREN OF PROMISE, iv. 28.
BORN AFTER THE SPIRIT. iv. 29.
Children of the FREE. iv. 31.
FREE. v. i.
IN JESUS CHRIST, v. 6.
LED OF THE SPIRIT, v. iSa.
NOT UNDER THE LAW. V. l8&
CHRIST S, v. 24.
OF THE HOUSEHOLD of faith, vi. 10.
102 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
Broadly speaking then, the sequence is that
with which our own Church Catechism has made
us so familiar Members of Christ, Children of
God, Inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven.
The general doctrine may be stated thus :
i. In Christ Christians are Justified, having
been made partakers of His Death and His
ii. The justified life of those who have been
united to Christ is a life of Adoption to Sonship.
iii. As Sons they are heirs to a spiritual Inherit
ance, freed from the bondage of this world, and
admitted already into the new order of the family
Until these privileges had been grasped, and
in some measure realised by individual faith, men
and women in St Paul s view had not yet
learned the very elements of what is implied in the
name of Christian ; and only in proportion as this
position was understood and accepted could they
be enabled to face their difficulties and do their
work in the world.
But if we are to do justice to the meaning of
St Paul we must examine his language more
closely, and in somewhat further detail.
We shall find that everything which follows it
is but an expansion of the great watchword,
CHRISTIAN PRIVILEGE 103
" IN CHRIST." This is St Paul s favourite expres
sion, and it continually recurs in his writings. The
first dawning of all that it subsequently signified
to him came, no doubt, when there was revealed
to him on the Damascus road how vital and
intimate was the union between the glorified
Christ in heaven and His suffering members on
earth (Acts ix. 4). The illustration of this union
which was most frequently before his mind was
that of the "Body"; an illustration used by
himself alone in the New Testament. He loved
to think that the Christ Who was Incarnate by
union with manhood had become Incorporate by
union with men. It is remarkable that the illustra
tion of the "Body" is not to be found in this
Epistle : unless, indeed, it underlies the statement
in iii. 28, "Ye are all one (man) in Christ Jesus."
Other metaphors are used, however, to describe
the status of those who in their Baptism have been
admitted "into Christ" (iii. 27).
In the first place, they are said to be "JUSTIFIED."
The word is most familiar to all readers of St
Paul. It is a word which carries us at once to
the very heart of his conception of the Gospel.
The Gospel, as he conceives it, is a unique
declaration of the Love of God. We may think
of Divine Love as manifesting itself in either of
two great ways which correspond to the two
revelations of Nature and of Grace. In Nature
we are surrounded by the hints of God s
io 4 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
Beneficence : in Grace we are made conscious of
God s Approbation. Beneficence is the general
disposition to shew kindness and to promote well-
being. Approbation is much more than this.
Approbation is acceptance to particular and
personal favour. It is for God s Approbation
that the spirit of man has yearned as for nothing
else in all the universe. The provision to meet
and satisfy this deep desire of the soul is ex
pressed by St Paul by the term Justification.
He did not originate the use of the word
"Justify" to denote the standing of a man before
God. He borrowed it from the Old Testament.
In this Epistle he first introduces it (ii. 16) with
a quotation from the i43rd Psalm. And he goes
back further still to find the essential thought of
it in the account of God s dealings with Abraham
(iii. 6, 8).
In the Greek version of the Old Testament
the word "justify" is constantly employed as
meaning to pronounce and treat as righteous, 1
as for example in the following passages :
"He that justifieth the wicked and he that
condemneth the just, even they both are abom
ination unto the Lord" (Prov. xvii. 15).
"Hear Thou in heaven . . . and judge Thy
servants, condemning the wicked . . . and justi-
1 For a critical discussion of SIKCUOVV and SiKatcoons see
Sanday and Headlam, Romans, pp. 30, 31.
CHRISTIAN PRIVILEGE 105
fying the righteous, to give him according to his
righteousness" (i Kings viii. 32).
It is as we read such a phrase as the one which
concludes this last quotation that we feel how
great an advance had to be made before it became
possible to speak, as did our Lord (St Luke xviii.
14) and St Paul, of a Divine Justification of those
who had no righteousness of their own upon
which they could hope to take their stand. To
St Paul this deeper knowledge came slowly, but
in the end unmistakably, by means of a profound
The problem of his earlier life had been to
find the answer to the old question, "How can
man be justified with God?" He had longed
for the Divine Approbation. He had struggled
hard to win the sense of it by obedience to con
science and the moral law. At last he became
convinced that it was a vain and hopeless task.
Sinful men could by no means in their power
attain to righteousness of their own. Indeed,
strange as it might sound to say so, he came to
see that it was in a large measure their effort to
do this which constituted their sinfulness. The
going about to establish a righteousness of their
own was merely the establishing of themselves
in a wrong attitude towards God. When they
altogether ceased to think of doing this, and
looked to God to do for them, not simply what
they could not do for themselves, but something
106 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
far greater and better when they believed that it
was His will to make them sharers of His own
righteousness in Christ then at once their attitude
became a true one and such as God might accept
and bless. This one only true attitude for man
was an attitude of Faith.
To state these conclusions exactly as St Paul
stated them :
"They being ignorant of God s righteousness,
and going about to establish their own righteous
ness, have not submitted themselves unto the
righteousness of God" (Rom. x. 3).
"That I may win Christ, and be found in Him,
not having a righteousness of mine own, which
is of the law, but that which is through faith in
Christ, the righteousness which is of God by
faith " (Phil. iii. 8, 9).
Justification then, in its complete New Testa
ment sense, is the Divine Approbation which
rests upon those who have renounced the hope
and even the wish that they may acquire a
goodness of their own, and are relying upon the
promise of pardon and grace through Christ.
Justification includes and goes beyond forgive
ness. Forgiveness looks mainly to the past;
Justification embraces the present and the future.
Forgiveness as it has been happily expressed
seems to say, * You may go : Justification says,
* You may come ! Justification is the welcome
to a life of fullest and freest fellowship with God.
CHRISTIAN PRIVILEGE 107
What has been said should enable us to under
stand how fitting it was that St Paul should pass
at once from the use of the term "justified" to
speak of ADOPTION and Sonship. The justified
member of Christ is not kept waiting, even as
one acquitted, before the bar of the Judge : he is
received immediately into the gracious atmosphere
of the Home.
The use of the metaphor of Adoption is peculiar
to St Paul among the writers of the Bible. His
Roman citizenship had brought him within the
circle of ideas which made such an illustration
natural. There was no legal adoption among the
Jews, just as there is none amongst ourselves.
Under Roman law, which would be familiar
to those who like the Galatians were living in a
Roman Province, adoption was a process of the
most ordinary occurrence. By the ancient
Civil law adoption created the relation of father
and son for all practical purposes, just as if the
adopted son were born of the blood of the
adoptive father in lawful marriage. The adopted
child entirely quitted his own family and entered
the family of his adopter, passing under the
paternal power of his new father and acquiring
the capacity to inherit through him. *
The common form of adoption was most
1 Lord Mackenzie, Roman Law, p. 137.
io8 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
dramatic. It consisted of an ancient ceremonial
conveyance in the presence of seven witnesses.
The would-be father used the formula, I claim
this man as my son. After the formal convey
ance there followed a fictitious lawsuit. The
adopted son gave evidence as to what had
happened at, and after, the time of his adoption.
Speaking of the father, who is supposed to have
died, he said : The deceased claimed me by the
name of son. He took me to his home. I called
him father and he allowed it. I sat at his table
where the slaves never sat. He told me the in
heritance was mine. The ceremony was com
pleted by the summoning of one of the witnesses
to corroborate this evidence. 1
Adoption was the admission by an act of grace
to a position to which no claim could be made
solely on the ground of nature. It is to be ob
served that St Paul is careful not to use language
which would deny that all men are in some true
sense children of God. Jews and pagans were
infants under a Divine Discipline (iv. 2). But it
was not until the revelation of the Son of God had
been given in the Incarnation that the possibilities
of the higher, nobler Sonship could be realised
1 See a most interesting article on St Paul and Roman
Law, by W. E. Ball, LL.D., in Contemporary Review,
CHRISTIAN PRIVILEGE 109
He told me the inheritance was mine. The
Member of Christ, accepted in the court of
law, admitted into the home, is introduced to
the Estate. He becomes an "HEIR THROUGH
Goo": 1 an heir, that is to say, not by virtue of
birth or for any merit of his own, but " through "
the act of " God," Who adopted him.
Again we may feel sure that St Paul is referring
to the condition of things as they existed under the
Roman law. And indeed the Roman law of
inheritance afforded a much more true illustration
of the privileges of a Christian than did the
Jewish. According to Roman law, unless it were
otherwise provided by a definite will to the con
trary, all the children, whether sons or daughters,
inherited alike : whereas by Jewish law the sons
inherited unequally, and the daughters, except in
cases where there were no sons, were entirely
excluded. The adoption of a child, according to
Roman law was sufficient to revoke any testament
which had been previously made by the father. 2
The question has been raised whether St Paul,
in his illustration in iv. 1-7, thought of the
"father" as being dead or alive. Doubtless the
1 This is unquestionably the correct reading in iv. 7. That
of the text of the A.V. was clearly influenced by the corre
sponding passage in Rom. viii. 17.
2 Mackenzie, Roman Law, p. 301.
no EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
"heir" might even in the father s lifetime, be
rightly described as prospectively "lord of all";
but the reference to guardians and "a time ap
pointed of the father," seem plainly to shew that,
in the case of the earthly analogy, St Paul imagined
that the death of the father had taken place.
It is therefore of little utility to endeavour to
prove that under the Roman law there was a
species of co-partnership in the family property
between a father and his children. The evidence
for this is far from convincing, and has to be
gathered from a time a good deal later than that
in which the Epistle was written. It is better to
admit freely that, as all metaphors must cease to
apply at some point, so here the comparison
between the earthly father and the Eternal Father
breaks down, as it must of necessity break down,
when duration of life is in question. St Paul s
point is to insist in the strongest possible way
that the Christian under the provisions of God s
grace, does actually enter upon his privileges as
heir quite as fully and indisputably as does any
successor to any ordinary estate. 1
1 It is most interesting to note the reply given by the
bishops at the Savoy Conference to those who wished the
word Inheritor at the beginning of the Catechism to be
altered to Heir. We conceive this expression as safe
as that which they desire, and more fully expressing the
efficacy of the Sacrament, according to St Paul in Gal. iii.
26, 27, where St Paul proves them all to be children of God,
because they were baptised, and in their baptism had put
CHRISTIAN PRIVILEGE in
Such then is the position of surpassing dignity
and splendour which St Paul maintained to be
the spiritual birthright of the Christian ; a position
not to be reached at last and as the reward of
long striving by those only who had made great
efforts to win it, but rather to be accepted thank
fully as the very starting-point of a true and humble
and Christ-like life.
Little marvel that he was startled at the thought
that any who had ever in the least understood
what the position meant should desire to ex
change it for anything lower, and should even
think it a gain to go back to a condition in which
they would live not as sons but as slaves. Little
marvel, too, that his whole being should burn
with indignation against those who would deliber
ately rob men of the hopes and blessings which
had been gained at such an infinite cost, and
without which Righteousness the outcome of a
right relation with God must for ever have
remained an unattainable dream.
on Christ : "if children, then, heirs," or, which is all one,
"inheritors," Rom. viii. 17. (Cardwell, Conferences, ch. vii.
ST PAUL S TEACHING AS TO
n^HOSE who would give us real and lasting
* help towards the attainment of Christian
character must not be content to deal in generali
ties. It is well of course that the utmost stress
should be laid upon the broad fact that Character
is the all-important thing to aim at. We need to
have it constantly impressed upon us that, in the
highest sense in which the words can be used,
To Be or not to Be, that is the question.
The formation of character is beyond question
the ultimate purpose of education and govern
ment ; the final test of efficiency in Church and
State. Character is the principal thing; the one
true standard of worth, and the one sure measure
of influence. The world is manifestly designed to
produce character. As we find it constituted,
it is evident that all cannot do great things, or get
great things, but that all may be great if they will.
In this happy rivalry of most holy competition
the success of one does not endanger, but rather
ensures the success of another.
CHRISTIAN CHARACTER 113
He who will urge all this upon us, and make
us believe it, has rendered us no small service.
But he must go further and do more, if his service
is to be of much permanent value.
As soon as we seriously attempt to give effect
to such counsels in practice, we begin to discover
the need of more and more definite directions.
There are questions that rise to be answered, and
difficulties that have to be met. It is not enough
to say in a general sort of way, Keep a lofty ideal
before you, aim at the highest you know, try to be
noble and good, strain every nerve and never
abandon the task. All this may be urged upon
us with the most persuasive eloquence, but a very
short experience of actual endeavour will suffice
to convince us that unless we can be taught more
than this we shall not for long retain our hold on
We need to have it made clear to us where we
are to begin, and how we are to go on, and how
at last we may hope to end. The goal must be
shewn to us, and the path that is to lead to it.
And then too something must be said that may
enable us to face and surmount the obstacles that
will meet us on the way. What are we to do in
the days when the task is difficult and the pro
gress seems so slow ?
It may seem ungracious to find fault with the
teaching about Character which is so generally
given to us at the present time. There is in it
ii 4 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
so much that is true, so much that is stimulating.
And yet it will scarcely be denied that it is open
to the charge of insufficiency on several grounds.
Its most obvious defect is its vagueness. Then
again, it does not make allowance enough for the
difficulties of the task which it, often so lightly,
enjoins. Moreover, it fails as a rule to provide
against the inevitable depression which overtakes
those who discover that what they have attempted
is not to be accomplished as rapidly as they had
been led to imagine.
Let us hope that the result of our study of the
teaching of St Paul will convince us that he
at all events is not to be charged with the like
shortcomings, but that on the contrary we may
find his teaching to be exactly such as will enable
us to supply them, whether for ourselves or for
If we have at all rightly interpreted the meaning
of St Paul in this Epistle, he intended his words
to be taken as a protest, a warning, and an appeal.
We have seen how earnestly he inveighs against
the folly of those who could allow themselves
to be persuaded to accept any aim less than the
highest ; how with all the force of his nature he
sets before them the perils of the downward
course, and how he pleads with them to follow
strongly and bravely after the loftiest spiritual
CHRISTIAN CHARACTER 115
And yet, if this were all, we might indeed com
plain that here again we were in danger of being
put off with generalities ; and we need not scruple
to say that the Epistle would not have been what
it has been to the Church, had it contained this
and nothing besides. The greatness of the Epistle
is surely to be seen in the fact that it not only
deals with large and general principles, but so
deals with them as to bring the truth of them
to bear most directly and with the greatest tact
and tenderness upon the actual misgivings and
weaknesses of the men and women whom, from
the very depths of his soul, the Apostle is longing
to guide and to encourage to the utmost of his
For a detailed proof that this is no exaggerated
account of the matter we should have to recall
passage after passage, and indeed to repeat a good
deal that has already been said in this Com
mentary. That of course we cannot attempt to
do. What we shall attempt is to strengthen the
impressions which we may have gathered from
our reading of the Epistle, by fixing our thoughts
with some considerable care upon a particular
instance, which might fairly be taken to illustrate
the teaching of the Apostle as a whole. The
particular instance is one which may most fitly
be selected as representative, inasmuch as it
consists of the sentence in which St Paul seems
intentionally to have brought to a climax all
n6 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
the best thought and deepest feeling of his
"THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
LOVE, JOY, PEACE,
LONGSQFFERING, GENTLENESS, GOODNESS, FAITH,
We have already attempted some interpretation
of this wonderful utterance. The old words will
perhaps mean more than they have meant to us
if we study them afresh in view of the very real
practical needs of which we have been speaking :
needs which are often felt, but are not in our
ordinary experience as often provided for.
We have spoken of the vagueness of the
exhortations which we not unfrequently receive.
The advice is admirable, but its indefiniteness
daunts us. We say, Tell us exactly what it
is that we are to strive after. What are the
steps, and what are the stages, and to what
may we expect that they will lead us in the
end ? Now, it must be allowed that these are
hard questions. The analysis of character
demands a moral insight, a power of spiritual
penetration, far beyond the ordinary. But here,
of course, is just a case in which we might
CHRISTIAN CHARACTER 117
reasonably look to Inspiration to aid us. What
ever else Inspiration is or is not, it is, we are
sure, the quickening of faculty to discover arid
discern the truths of the Spirit.
We turn then to St Paul with expectation;
and indeed we shall not be disappointed. In
the fewest possible words he exhibits to us just
what we so greatly desire to see. To our inquiry,
What is Christian Character? Shew it to us
in its growth and in its development : this is his
reply ; let us repeat it again
" The fruit of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace,
Longsujfering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meek
Here is the answer to our question. We shall
find that it is extraordinarily complete.
Let us study the description as it falls into its
a. " LOVE, JOY, PEACE." The best commentary
upon the position and significance of these is
contained in those divinest expositions of the
spiritual life which are recorded for us by St
John in the latter part of his Gospel. In those
great discourses our Lord is seeking to give
to His disciples some conception of the kind
of life which He while on earth had been
living with His Father in heaven, and which
He desired that they should also live. In order
that they may understand what that life is, He
reduces it, as it were, to its elements. He
u8 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
speaks of its "Love," of its "Joy," and of its
We cannot be wrong then in taking these to
represent the side of character which is the
immediate outcome and the direct evidence of
the life as it is lived with God.
Again and again in this Epistle St Paul had
taught that the foundation of all true thinking
and doing must be laid deep down in Faith
towards God. How naturally then it follows
that Love, which is the ripening of confidence
and trust, should be the first outcome and sign
of a living faith. And where there is Love there
will be Joy, the pleasure, the rapture which is
felt at the thought, in the presence and on
each new revelation of that which is loved. And
once more, where Love and Joy are there must
also be Peace the sequel, the abiding effect of
both the deep calm, the utter repose, the
inexpressible sense of well-being which fills the
heart and keeps the mind when they are resting
in conscious dependence upon the source of
fullest bliss. Peace after Joy, because
Peace is something more than Joy,
Even the Joys above ;
For Peace of all created things
Is likest Him we love.
This then is the first answer to our questions.
We ask Where are we to begin in our efforts
1 St John xiv. 31 ; xv. II ; xvi. 33.
CHRISTIAN CHARACTER 119
after Character? The reply tells us that the
beginning of all true Character must be sought
in a right attitude towards God.
We do well to lay the truth of it most seriously
to heart in a time like ours, when we are all of us
in such haste to be philanthropic. Let us under
stand that if a life is not right in its highest relation
ship, it must of necessity be wrong in every other ;
that what a man is in secret, in his private prayers,
in his Communions this, and no more than this,
he really is and will be proved to be in his inter
course and dealings with his fellow-men. So long
as he finds no interest, no pleasure, no refreshment
in communing with the Divine ; so long must he
expect to fail when called upon to meet the
incessant and exhausting demands which must be
made upon him in his everyday contact with the
b. It is of the response which should be made
to these demands that St Paul would have us to
None knew better than he did the truth of that
which our Lord, after speaking of the heavenly
life, had gone on to tell His disciples in regard to
the kind of life they might expect to meet with
in their dealings with men upon earth. He
had warned them that it would be a very different
kind of life. There would be not love, but
" hate " ; not joy, but " sorrow." In the world,
120 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
He had said, they should have, not peace but
St Paul had experienced it all to the full, and
he knew also full well in what spirit the Christian
ought to prepare himself to correspond to the
requirements of such an environment
When a man lives with God, wrote a philo
sopher of our own time, his voice shall be as
sweet as the murmur of the brook and the
rustle of the corn. 2 That was beautifully
expressed, but St Paul speaks yet more truly
and more beautifully, because in terms not simply
of Nature but of Human Nature.
" LONGSUFFERING, GENTLENESS, GOODNESS,
FAITH." It is not difficult to understand the
meaning of these. Longsuffering is patient
endurance under injuries inflicted by others.
Gentleness is the kindliness and sweetness of
disposition which cannot be satisfied merely to
suppress the outward indications of anger, but
will allow no hidden thought of bitterness or scorn.
Goodness goes yet further, and is the active benefi
cence which suffers no opportunity of rendering
a service to pass unused. And once more Faith,
which is the strong belief in the goodness, or at
least the possibility of goodness, in others. Such
belief is the very opposite of miserable suspicion
and cynical mistrust. Even when it has been
1 St John xv. 19, xvi. 20, 33.
CHRISTIAN CHARACTER 121
most pitifully disappointed it stubbornly refuses
to despair, and trusts on until at last it triumphs,
as it so constantly does, in the upraising of the
trusted. This is a quality which is an unfailing
mark of the purest goodness, a most sure sign of
Simple noble natures, credulous
Of what they long for, good in friend or foe,
And most in those who most have done them ill. 1
c. We might not have thought it possible to add
any further touches to such a portraiture of spiritual
perfection ; and yet we can see that without
some addition the description could not really
be regarded as complete. For there is yet a
third relation of life the relation to Self. Two
words tell us all we need to learn about it:
" MEEKNESS, TEMPERANCE." Meekness is the due
estimate of the place which self is entitled to hold ;
Tem-perance (or self-control, as the word might
rightly be rendered) is the resolute determination
to see to it that self is kept in its proper place.
In other words, there are to be no high notions or
vain conceits, no airs of fancied superiority, and no
concessions to a weak self-indulgence ; but rather
the ever advancing likeness to Him Who is
represented as beyond all else our pattern in
this, that He took upon Him the yoke of a
perfect submission, and was " meek and lowly
1 Lord Tennyson, Geraint and Enid.
122 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
Goodness, it has been finely said, is admired
and taught in all religions. But to be good and
feel that your goodness is nothing; to ripen all
excellence and, like corn, to bend the head
when full of ripe and bursting grain that is
"The Fruit of the Spirit" is then only fully
ripe, when to all other graces has been added
the delicate bloom of a genuine humility.
That then is the Christian character as painted
by St Paul. It is the delineation of human life
as seen in all its bearings ; in relation to God,
in respect to our neighbour, and in regard to
self. It is the * godly, righteous, and sober life ;
the life in which God is first and foremost, and
in which self is last and least.
No standard could be loftier, no ideal more
glorious. And yet who would venture to assert
that there is any sort of vagueness in the presenta
tion ? No, that difficulty at all events need exist
for us no longer.
Because one difficulty has been removed, it by
no means follows, however, that others must
vanish also, nor indeed that they will be in any
way lessened. It may prove, on the contrary,
1 F. W. Robertson.
CHRISTIAN CHARACTER 123
that they have been actually increased and
You have done something no doubt for a man
when you have put your glass to his eye and
have shewn him the outline of the mountain ridge
above the cloud, clear cut against the sky; but
you have not done everything. As a matter of
fact you have not set him one foot nearer to the
summit. The way is as long and as steep as
ever it was, and it is quite possible that it may
appear to him even longer and more arduous than
he had previously thought it. Similarly, when a
man has been shewn quite definitely the true
ideal of character, he may not unreasonably turn
round and say, You have helped me in one
respect, but you have done not a little to dis
hearten me also. The life as you shew it to me
is very wonderful. I can admire it, as I look at
it far off in the distance above me, but how can
I hope that I can ever attain to it ?
How very hard it is to be a Christian ! 1 so
speaks one of our modern poets, who has read
very thoroughly and expressed very forcibly much
of the deeper thought and feeling of the men
about him. It was hard centuries ago. It is
hard still. Time has brought no lessening of
Let us turn then again to the words which St
Paul wrote to see whether they will contribute
1 R. Browning, Easter Day.
i2 4 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
anything towards the removal of this our second
It has been wisely remarked that while argu
ments are the pillars of the Temple of Truth,
illustrations are the windows which let in the light.
There are both arguments and illustrations in the
Epistle to the Galatians. We have an illustration
in this sentence which we are considering. We
shall find that it does let in a good deal of light.
The first thing that strikes us about the illustra
tion as we look at it is, that it is not the illustration
which seems to us to come most naturally when
we are trying to describe the Christian life. To
most of us it probably seems most natural to think
of the Christian life as a journey ; a way to be
travelled, a height to be gained. Nor of course
are we wrong in thinking and speaking thus.
Such an illustration is a very right and true one.
It is constantly occurring in the Bible. In this
Epistle, and in the immediate context, it is used
by St Paul when he speaks of " walking " and of
being "led by the Spirit." It is all the more
noticeable therefore that in this particular place
he exchanges it for another and a more excellent
illustration ; an illustration which has been made
peculiarly sacred to Christians, by the fact that
it was so frequently employed by our Lord. It
was almost His favourite illustration the illustra
tion of Growth.
Certainly the thoughts and associations sug-
CHRISTIAN CHARACTER 125
gested by this second illustration differ greatly
from those suggested by the first. Climbing
is one thing, growing is quite another. In the
one case the idea conveyed is that of toiling and
striving amid heat, and dust, and obstacles, with
painful steps and slow : in the other the picture
presented is of all that is gentle and gracious, a
progress peaceful, and measured, and sure. The
illustration from growth is a more attractive
illustration, and that not merely to the fancy.
The more we ponder it the more we shall feel that
it is dear also to the deeper sense. It really
helps us and does us good. And why? The
reason is not hard to find.
Our daily experience teaches us that we are
weak or strong according as we set out to attempt
any task from the thought of ourselves or from
the thought of God. When we have made self
the starting-point we have found that energy and
resolution have quickly failed us ; but when, on
the contrary, we have thought first of the Divine
purpose and power, we have been steadied and
strengthened, and have felt that we could not
despair. Now the pre-eminence of the illustration
of Growth consists in this, that it directs us in
the first instance to the thought of the place
held by the Divine activity in the formation of
In climbing, the idea of help may, of course,
come in, but only as of something which in its
126 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
nature is external and secondary ; as when some
one guides, or upholds us, or supplies us with
food. In growing the power is within; essential
and original. Character is thus represented as a
vital product; the outcome, the expression of an
inward force, of that something not ourselves
which makes for righteousness. In St Paul s
very simple language it is " the fruit of the Spirit " ;
the effect, that is to say, of the Divine Spirit
mysteriously blending with and transforming the
To some minds possibly it might appear that
the very emphasis with which this aspect of the
matter is represented is calculated to detract from
the value of the illustration when considered as
a complete picture of the development of Christian
experience. The Divine side, they might be
disposed to say, is made so prominent that the
human is excluded altogether. No room is left
for it. If that were really so, the illustration
might indeed fail to satisfy us : but is it so ?
Is there really no room for human endeavour
in the process of growth? Have we really no
share, no responsibility in regard, for example,
to the growth of our bodies or of our minds?
Of course we have a great deal to do with it in
both these cases ; and so also a great deal must
depend upon ourselves in respect to the develop
ment of the highest side of our nature. Indeed,
so clearly did the German poet see this that,
CHRISTIAN CHARACTER 127
when he specially desired to point out the part
that human endeavour must play in the formation
of character, he actually said :
If thou would st attain thy highest, go look on a flower :
c What it does will-lessly, do thou willingly. 1
What is it then that the flower does, is ever
doing? It is ever turning towards the sunlight,
drinking in the dew and rain, gathering nourish
ment from all the elements within its reach, tending
upwards, yielding to the law of its being. And
the man must do the like. He must use all means
of advance, directing each power of mind and soul
towards the recognised goal of attainment, in glad
obedience to the movements of the power within.
He differs from the flower in that he must do it
all consciously and willingly.
Our wills are ours we know not how,
Our wills are ours to make them Thine.
It is the mystery and the majesty of a man that he
It cannot be objected therefore that the
illustration leaves no room for human effort.
What it does is to refuse to give it the first place,
and to reveal to us the difference between the
sphere of the Divine action and of the human in
the formation and development of Character. It
is God s to create, it is man s to co-operate.
Does not this shed light upon the problem?
128 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
Will it not be in proportion as we recognise the
truth of this view of the matter that our sense
of the difficulty of progress will be relieved ?
It will still be our duty to labour and strive,
but our labouring and striving will have changed
its nature when once we realise that it is to be
"according to His working that worketh in us
mightily " (Col. i. 29).
If we find it hard, it will be because it is hard to
be simple and trustful and obedient : but even so
the hardship will be of a kind very different from
that which we must feel as long as we forget that
the life which we are to live is, in the strictest
sense, not our own, but an outflowing of the full
and abounding life of Christ which has been given
to us, and is ever seeking to manifest itself in us.
If we could but receive it, it is really harder
to resist than to yield to the grace of God : harder
not to be, than to be a Christian. "It is hard
for thee to kick against the pricks."
And now perhaps we shall see our way to that
which will enable us to deal with the difficulties
which arise out of the feeling that progress in
character (the third difficulty of which we spoke)
seems to be often so slow. That was a difficulty
to which, as we have seen, the Galatians with their
CHRISTIAN CHARACTER 129
quick impulsive temperaments were peculiarly
sensitive. We also, though possibly for other
reasons, are not less liable to be discouraged by
it than they were.
The note of our age is pace. The demand on
all sides is for rapid results and quick returns.
We are idolaters of the immediate. We find
it so hard to wait. The people in Norway say
that there is one word of their language which
every Englishman knows. It is the word strax,
which means quick. It seems to them that our
one desire is to get over the ground ! Slowness
in anybody or anything is, to most of us to-day,
a very considerable trial.
This characteristic tendency of our time must
not be overlooked by those who would minister
to its necessities. It calls for strong and
sympathetic treatment now, as much as it did
in the first century of our era. How natural
then that we should look once more to the teacher
who spoke in that far-distant past.
What would St Paul have to say to us were
he with us to-day? Would he tell us that the
slowness of development is our own fault; that
if we had more faith, offered less resistance to
Grace, and gave ourselves more freely to obey
it, our progress would be more rapid than it is?
We cannot doubt that he would say all this, and
say it most earnestly. But, at the same time, we
may be equally sure that this would not be all
130 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
that he would think it needful to say. He had
more to tell the Galatians, and we may be certain
that he would feel that what he taught then was
no less applicable now. Let us turn to his words
We have spoken a good deal already of the
illustration which he uses, but we have by no
means exhausted its teaching. Let us listen to the
Apostle once more, as he is speaking to the
Galatians. Look, he seems to say, at the tree
there on yonder wall, and learn yet another lesson
that it has to teach you. It has not grown to be
what it is in a moment. Assuredly its fruit has not
been the result of a day. It has been the work
of many days and many sorts of days, dull days
as well as bright; yes, and of dark cold nights
too. It is strange, slow work, this ripening of
fruit. And remember, that is what Character is
Lest it should be imagined that we are laying
an undue stress upon the intention of St Paul,
in using this illustration, it is worth while to re
collect that he returns to it again in his concluding
chapter, and draws from it inferences of the very
kind which we have been drawing. Go, he says,
and see that harvest field with its various yield.
It too was long in coming; it sprang from the
smallest beginnings, it needed perpetual attention.
That again is a picture of our life and work. We
also must sow, and we must reap, and we must not
CHRISTIAN CHARACTER 131
be weary. " In due season we shall reap, if we
faint not" (vi. 7-9).
St Paul then would certainly impress upon us
that slowness of development is not entirely due
to our fault, but is, to a large extent, inevitable
from the nature of the case. Slowness is an in
dispensable condition of the highest develop
ment. The best things come slowest. The
mushroom may spring up in a night, but the
heart of oak needs the centuries to mature it.
Nowhere is the law more apparent than in our
own individual constitution. The growth of the
body is comparatively rapid : the growth of the
mind is not so quick, as those know well who
have been engaged in the work of education.
Why, then, should it offend us to find that the
growth of the Spirit the Eternal part is even
How often the discouragement caused by the
difficulty of which we are now thinking would
disappear if the matter were reasonably considered
in this light. When persons complain that whereas
at one time, in the beginning of their religious
life, the signs of progress were unmistakably
apparent ; but that now they are often unable to
detect any sort of difference in their condition
from day to day, or even from month to month :
might it not help them if they were to reflect
upon these simple facts of growth ? Would they
not find that the explanation of their experience
1 32 EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS
was often this? At the beginning of which they
speak the changes were for the most part changes
of practice and habit; changes, that is to say,
in the outward and physical sphere. Then followed
changes which were for the most part intellectual,
altered views of doctrines of the Faith, clearer
apprehensions of great religious principles. In all
these the difference made was clear to see, and
could be consciously recognised. But when it
came, later on, to changes not so much in the
physical or the intellectual as in the spiritual
sphere; when it became a question of their
becoming a little more devout, or a little more
gentle, or a little more humble, was it to be
wondered at that the advances then should be
less obviously noticeable?
The finer touches require time, and we dare not
hurry the work.
A child had been playing in the garden. The
mother said, What have you been doing, my
child? Helping God, mother, was the quick
reply. And how have you been helping God?
I saw a flower going to blossom, and I blossomed
That is a parable of much that we are doing
to-day. We are eager to witness the ripening of
character in others and in ourselves. We long to
accelerate the process, and we are only too ready
to employ our rude and hasty fingers in the
attempt. But it will not do ; and why ? We may
CHRISTIAN CHARACTER 133
get the blossom, but we may spoil the fruit. And
the Heavenly Husbandman is working for fruit.
We are little men, and we are in a hurry. God
is great and He is in no hurry. If we are to work
with the Eternal, we must needs learn patience;
patience with others, and what is harder still,
so St Francis de Sales used to say, patience with
All this, though it takes us many words to
express it, lies wrapped in St Paul s one word
"Fruit." The more we grasp its meaning, the
more shall we appreciate that sentence of this
Epistle, "We through the Spirit by faith wait for
the hope of righteousness " (v. 5).
Let us have no uncertainty then about St Paul s
teaching in regard to Christian character. He
sets before us the ideal in clear and unmistakable
terms. He would have us know that our hope
of attaining it depends upon our faithfully co
operating with the Power that is working in us.
And for the rest, he would bid us be patient, and
never presume to despair, inasmuch as nothing
can be really impossible for which men have been
made and redeemed, and to which they have been
called by God.
W. H. WHITE AND CO. LTD.
RIVERSIDE PRESS, EDINBURGH.
The Churchman s Bible
GENERAL EDITOR: JOHN HENRY BURN, B.D.
EXAMINING CHAPLAIN TO THE BISHOP OF ABERDEEN
THIS Series of Expositions on the Books of the Bible is intended
to be of service to the general reader in the practical and
devotional study of the Sacred Text.
Each Book will be provided with a full and clear Introductory section,
in which will be stated what is known or conjectured respecting the
date and occasion of the composition of the Book, and any other
particulars that may help to elucidate its meaning as a whole. The
Exposition will be divided into sections of a convenient length, corre
sponding as far as possible with the divisions of the Church Lectionary.
The Translation of the Authorised Version will be printed in full, such
corrections as are deemed necessary being placed in footnotes.
Job . . . C. J. BALL, M.A.
EcclesiastCS . . A. W. STREANE, D.D.
Isaiah . . . . W. E. BARNES, D.D.
Jeremiah . . . G. HARFORD-BATTERSBY, M.A.
Ezekiel . . . W. BENHAM, D.D.
Minor Prophets . . R. WINTERBOTHAM, M.A..LL.B.
St Matthew . . J. B. SEATON, M.A.
St Mark . . . K. LAKE, M.A.
St Lllke . . H. C. SHUTTLEWORTH, M.A.
St John . . J. O. F. MURRAY, M.A.
ActS . . . . W. E. COLLINS, M.A.
Romans . . . W. O. BURROWS, M.A.
I and 2 Corinthians . J. H. KENNEDY, D.D.
. . . A. W. ROBINSON, B.D.
. . G. H. WHITAKER, M.A.
Philippians . . . c. R. D. BIGGS, E.D.
Colossians and Philemon H. j. c. KNIGHT, M.A.
Pastoral Epistles . J. F. BETHUNE-BAKER, M.A.
St James . . . H. W. FULFORD, M.A.
St Peter and St Jude . F. RELTON, A.K.C.
St John s Epistles . J. M. DANSON, D.D.
Revelation . . . E. c. s. GIBSON, D.D.