25. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
25. Si vivimus Spiritu, etiam Spiritu ambulemus.
26. Let us not be desirous of vainglory, provoking one another,
envying one another.
26. Ne sinms inanis gloriae cupidi, invicem provocantes, invicem
25. If we live in the Spirit. According to his usual custom,
the apostle draws from the doctrine a practical exhortation. The death
of the flesh is the life of the Spirit. If the Spirit of God lives in us,
let him govern our actions. There will always be many persons daring enough
to make a false boast of living in the Spirit, but the apostle challenges
them to a proof of the fact. As the soul does not remain idle in the body,
but gives motion and rigour to every member and part, so the Spirit of
God cannot dwell in us without manifesting himself by the outward effects.
By the life is here meant the inward power, and by the walk the outward
actions. The metaphorical use of the word walk, which frequently occurs,
describes works as evidences of the spiritual life.
26. Let us not be desirous of vain-glory, The special exhortations
which were addressed to the Galatians were not more necessary for them
than they are adapted to our own time. Of many evils existing in society
at large, and particularly in the church, ambition is the mother. Paul
therefore directs us to guard against it, for the vain-glory (kenodoxi>a)
of which he speaks is nothing else than ambition, (filimia,) or the desire
of honor, by which every one desires to excel all others. The heathen philosophers
do not condemn every desire of glory; but among Christians, whoever is
desirous of glory departs from true glory, and therefore is justly charged
with idle and foolish ambition. It is not lawful for us to glow but in
God alone. Every other kind of glorying is pure vanity. Mutual provocations
and envyings are the daughters of ambition. He who aspires to the highest
rank must of necessity envy all others, and disrespectful, biting, stinging
language is the unavoidable consequence.
1. Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual
restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest
thou also be tempted.
1. Fratres, etiamsi praeoccupatus fuerit homo in aliquo lapsu, vos,
qui spirituales estis, instaurate ejusmodi hominem spiritu lenitatis; considerans
to ipsum, ne tu quoque tenteris.
2. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
2. Alii aliorum onera portate, et sic adimplete legem Christi.
3. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing,
he deceiveth himself.
3. Nam si quis putat se esse aliquid, quum nihil sit, se ipsum decipit.
4. But let every man prove his own worth, and then shall he have
rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.
4. Opus antem suum probet unusquisque; et tunc in se ipso solo gloriam
habebit, non antem in alio.
5. For every man shall bear his own burden.
5. Quisque enim proprium onus portabit.
1. Brethren, if a man be overtaken in any fault. Ambition is
a serious and alarming evil. But hardly less injury is frequently done
by unseasonable and excessive severity, which, under the plausible name
of zeal, springs in many instances from pride, and from dislike and contempt
of the brethren. Most men seize on the faults of brethren as an occasion
of insulting them, and of using reproachful and cruel language. Were the
pleasure they take in upbraiding equalled by their desire to produce amendment,
they would act in a different manner. Reproof, and often sharp and severe
reproof, must be administered to offenders. But while we must not shrink
from a faithful testimony against sin, neither must we omit to mix oil
with the vinegar.
We are here taught to correct the faults of brethren in a mild manner,
and to consider no rebukes as partaking a religious and Christian character
which do not breathe the spirit of meekness. To gain this object, he explains
the design of pious reproofs, which is, to restore him who is fallen, to
place him in his former condition. That design will never be accomplished
by violence, or by a disposition to accuse, or by fierceness of manner
or language; and consequently, we must display a gentle and meek spirit,
if we intend to heal our brother. And lest any man should satisfy himself
with assuming the outward form, he demands the spirit of meekness; for
no man is prepared for chastising a brother till he has succeeded in acquiring
a gentle spirit.
Another argument for gentleness in correcting brethren is contained
in the expression, “if a man be overtaken.” If he has been carried away
through want of consideration, or through the cunning arts of a deceiver,
it would be cruel to treat such a man with harshness. Now, we know that
the devil is always lying in wait, and has a thousand ways of leading us
astray. When we perceive a brother to have transgressed, let us consider
that he has fallen into the snares of Satan; let us be moved with compassion,
and prepare our minds to exercise forgiveness. But offenses and falls of
this description must undoubtedly be distinguished from deepseated crimes,
accompanied by deliberate and obstinate disregard of the authority of God.
Such a display of wicked and perverse disobedience to God must be visited
with greater severity, for what advantage would be gained by gentle treatment?
The particle if also, (eja<n kai<,) implies that not only the weak
who have been tempted, but those who have yielded to temptation, shall
Ye who are spiritual. This is not spoken in irony; for, however
spiritual they might be, still they were not wholly filled with the Spirit.
It belongs to such persons to raise up the fallen. To what better purpose
can their superior attainments be applied than to promote the salvation
of the brethren? The more eminently any man is endowed with Divine grace,
the more strongly is he bound to consult the edification of those who have
been less favored. But such is our folly, that in our best duties we are
apt to fail, and therefore need the exhortation which the apostle gives
to guard against the influence of carnal views.
Considering thyself. It is not without reason that the apostle
passes from the plural to the singular number. He gives weight to his admonition,
when he addresses each person individually, and bids him look carefully
into himself. “Whoever thou art that takest upon thee the office of reproving
others, look to thyself.” Nothing is more difficult than to bring us to
acknowledge or examine our own weakness. Whatever may be our acuteness
in detecting the faults of others, we do not see, as the saying is, “the
wallet that hangs behind our own back;” and therefore, to arouse us to
greater activity, he employs the singular number.
These words may admit of two senses. As we acknowledge that we are liable
to sin, we more willingly grant that forgiveness to others which, in our
turn, we expect will be extended to us. Some interpret them in this manner:
“Thou who art a sinner, and needest the compassion of thy brethren, oughtest
not to show thyself fierce and implacable to others.”But I would rather
choose to expound them as a warning given by Paul, that, in correcting
others, we should not ourselves commit sin. There is a danger here which
deserves our most careful attention, and against which it is difficult
to guard; for nothing is more easy than to exceed the proper limits. The
word tempt, however, may very properly be taken in this passage as extended
to the whole life. Whenever we have occasion to pronounce censure, let
us begin with ourselves, and, remembering our own weakness, let us be indulgent
2. Bear ye one another’s burdens. The weaknesses or sins, under
which we groan, are called burdens. This phrase is singularly appropriate
in an exhortation to kind behavior, for nature dictates to us that those
who bend under a burden ought to be relieved. He enjoins us to bear the
burdens. We must not indulge or overlook the sins by which our brethren
are pressed down, but relieve them, — which can only be done by mild and
friendly correction. There are many adulterers and thieves, many wicked
and abandoned characters of every description, who would willingly make
Christ an accomplice in their crimes. All would choose to lay upon believers
the task of bearing their burdens. But as the apostle had immediately before
exhorted us to restore a brother, the manner in which Christians are required
to bear one another’s burdens cannot be mistaken.
And so fulfill the law of Christ. The word law, when applied
here to Christ, serves the place of an argument. There is an implied contrast
between the law of Christ and the law of Moses. “If you are very desirous
to keep a law, Christ enjoins on you a law which you are bound to prefer
to all others, and that is, to cherish kindness towards each other. He
who has not this has nothing. On the other hand, he tells us, that, when
every one compassionately assists his neighbor, the law of Christ is fulfilled;
by which he intimates that every thing which does not proceed from love
is superfluous; for the composition of the Greek word ajnaplhrw>sate, conveys
the idea of what is absolutely perfect. But as no man performs in every
respect what Paul requires, we are still at a distance from perfection.
He who comes the nearest to it with regard to others, is yet far distant
with respect to God.
3. For if a man think himself. There is an ambiguity in the construction,
but Paul’s meaning is clear. The phrase, When he is nothing, appears at
first view to mean, “if any person, who is in reality nothing, claims to
be something;” as there are many men of no real worth who are elated by
a foolish admiration of themselves. But the meaning is more general, and
may be thus expressed: “Since all men are nothing, he who wishes to appear
something, and persuades himself that he is somebody, deceives himself.”
First, then, he declares that we are nothing, by which he means, that we
have nothing of our own of which we have a right to boast, but are destitute
of every thing good: so that all our glorying is mere vanity. Secondly,
he infers that they who claim something as their own deceive themselves.
Now, since nothing excites our indignation more than that others should
impose upon us, it argues the height of folly that we should willingly
impose upon ourselves. This consideration will render us much more candid
to others. Whence proceeds fierce insult or haughty sternness, but from
this, that every one exalts himself in his own estimation, and proudly
despises others? Let arrogance be removed, and we shall all discover the
greatest modesty in our conduct towards each other.
4. But let every man prove his own work. By a powerful blow,
Paul has already struck down the pride of man. But it frequently happens
that, by comparing ourselves with others, the low opinion which we form
of them leads us to entertain a high opinion of ourselves. Paul declares
that no such comparison ought to be allowed. Let no man, he says, measure
himself by the standard of another, or please himself with the thought,
that others appear to him less worthy of approbation. Let him lay aside
all regard to other men, examine his own conscience, and inquire what is
his own work. It is not what we gain by detracting from others, but what
we have without any comparison, that can be regarded as true praise.
Some consider Paul to be speaking in irony. “Thou flatterest thyself
by a comparison with the faults of others; but if thou wilt consider who
thou art, thou wilt then enjoy the praise which is justly due to thee.”
In other words, no praise whatever shall be thine; because there is no
man by whom the smallest portion of praise is really deserved. In conformity
with this view, the words that follow, every man shall bear his own burden,
are supposed to mean, that it is usual for every man to bear his own burden.
But the plain and direct sense of the words agrees better with the apostle’s
reasoning. “With respect to thyself alone, and not by comparison with others,
thou wilt have praise.” I am well aware that the next sentence, which annihilates
all the glory of man, has been regarded as justifying the ironical interpretation.
But the glorying of which this passage treats, is that of a good conscience,
in which the Lord allows his people to indulge, and which Paul elsewhere
expresses in very animated language.
“Paul earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have
lived in all good conscience before God until this day.”
This is nothing more than an acknowledgment of Divine grace, which reflects
no praise whatever on man, but excites him to give God the glory. Such
a reason for glorying do the godly find in themselves; and they ascribe
it, not to their own merits, but to the riches of the grace of God.
“For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of a good conscience, that
in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the
grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world.”
(2 Corinthians 1:12.)
Our Lord himself instructs us:
“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet; and when thou hast
shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret; and thy Father, who
seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”
Strictly speaking, he makes no assertion, but leads us to conclude,
that, when a man is valued for his own worth, and not for the baseness
of others, the praise is just and substantial. The statement is therefore
conditional, and imports that none are entitled to be regarded as good
men, who are not found to be so, apart from the consideration of others.
5. For every man shall bear his own burdens. To destroy sloth
and pride, he brings before us the judgment of God, in which every individual
for himself, and without a comparison with others, will give an account
of his life. It is thus that we are deceived; for, if a man who has but
one eye is placed among the blind, he considers his vision to be perfect;
and a tawny person among negroes thinks himself white. The apostle affirms
that the false conclusions to which we are thus conducted will find no
place in the judgment of God; because there every one will bear his own
burden, and none will stand acquitted by others from their own sins. This
is the true meaning of the words.