[Translated by Theodore Graebner (Grand Rapids, Michigan:
Zondervan Publishing House, 1949. This text was prepared by Laura J. Hoelter
for Project Wittenberg by Robert E. Smith and is in the public domain.
You may freely distribute, copy or print this text.]
CHAPTER 5 VERSE 25. If we live in the Spirit, let us also
walk in the Spirit.
A little while ago the Apostle had condemned those who are envious and
start heresies and schisms. As if he had forgotten that he had already
berated them, the Apostle once more reproves those who provoke and envy
others. Was not one reference to them sufficient? He repeats his admonition
in order to emphasize the viciousness of pride that had caused all the
trouble in the churches of Galatia, and has always caused the Church of
Christ no end of difficulties. In his Epistle to Titus the Apostle states
that a vainglorious man should not be ordained as a minister, for pride,
as St. Augustine points out, is the mother of all heresies.
Now vainglory has always been a common poison in the world. There is
no village too small to contain someone who wants to be considered wiser
or better than the rest. Those who have been bitten by pride usually stand
upon the reputation for learning and wisdom. Vainglory is not nearly so
bad in a private person or even in an official as it is in a minister.
When the poison of vainglory gets into the Church you have no idea what
havoc it can cause. You may argue about knowledge, art, money, countries,
and the like without doing particular harm. But you cannot quarrel about
salvation or damnation, about eternal life and eternal death without grave
damage to the Church. No wonder Paul exhorts all ministers of the Word
to guard against this poison. He writes: "If we live in the Spirit." Where
the Spirit is, men gain new attitudes. Where formerly they were vainglorious,
spiteful and envious, they now become humble, gentle and patient. Such
men seek not their own glory, but the glory of God. They do not provoke
each other to wrath or envy, but prefer others to themselves.
As dangerous to the Church as this abominable pride is, yet there is
nothing more common. The trouble with the ministers of Satan is that they
look upon the ministry as a stepping-stone to fame and glory, and right
there you have the seed for all sorts of dissensions.
Because Paul knew that the vainglory of the false Apostles had caused
the churches of Galatia endless trouble, he makes it his business to suppress
this abominable vice. In his absence the false apostles went to work in
Galatia. They pretended that they had been on intimate terms with the apostles,
while Paul had never seen Christ in person or had much contact with the
rest of the apostles. Because of this they delivered him, rejected his
doctrine, and boosted their own. In this way they troubled the Galatians
and caused quarrels among them until they provoked and envied each other;
which goes to show that neither the false apostles nor the Galatians walked
after the Spirit, but after the flesh.
The Gospel is not there for us to aggrandize ourselves. The Gospel is
to aggrandize Christ and the mercy of God. It holds out to men eternal
gifts that are not gifts of our own manufacture. What right have we to
receive praise and glory for gifts that are not of our own making?
No wonder that God in His special grace subjects the ministers of the
Gospel to all kinds of afflictions, otherwise they could not cope with
this ugly beast called vainglory. If no persecution, no cross, or reproach
trailed the doctrine of the Gospel, but only praise and reputation, the
ministers of the Gospel would choke with pride. Paul had the Spirit of
Christ. Nevertheless there was given unto him the messenger of Satan to
buffet him in order that he should not come to exalt himself, because of
the grandeur of his revelations. St. Augustine's opinion is well taken:
"If a minister of the Gospel is praised, he is in danger; if he is despised,
he is also in danger."
The ministers of the Gospel should be men who are not too easily affected
by praise or criticism, but simply speak out the benefit and the glory
of Christ and seek the salvation of souls.
Whenever you are being praised, remember it is not you who is being
praised but Christ, to whom all praise belongs. When you preach the Word
of God in its purity and also live accordingly, it is not your own doing,
but God's doing. And when people praise you, they really mean to praise
God in you. When you understand this--and you should because "what hast
thou that thou didst not receive?"--you will not flatter yourself on the
one hand and on the other hand you will not carry yourself with the thought
of resigning from the ministry when you are insulted, reproached, or persecuted.
It is really kind of God to send so much infamy, reproach, hatred,
and cursing our way to keep us from getting proud of the gifts of God in
us. We need a millstone around our neck to keep us humble. There are a
few on our side who love and revere us for the ministry of the Word, but
for every one of these there are a hundred on the other side who hate and
The Lord is our glory. Such gifts as we possess we acknowledge to be
the gifts of God, given to us for the good of the Church of Christ. Therefore
we are not proud because of them. We know that more is required of them
to whom much is given, than of such to whom little is given. We also know
that God is no respecter of persons. A plain factory hand who does his
work faithfully pleases God just as much as a minister of the Word.
VERSE 26. Let us not be desirous of vain glory.
To desire vainglory is to desire lies, because when one person praises
another he tells lies. What is there in anybody to praise? But it is different
when the ministry is praised. We should not only desire people to praise
the ministry of the Gospel but also do our utmost to make the ministry
worthy of praise because this will make the ministry more effective. Paul
warns the Romans not to bring Christianity into disrepute. "Let not then
your good be evil spoken of." (Rom. 14:16.) He also begged the Corinthians
to "give no offense in anything, that the ministry be not blamed." (I Cor.
6:3.) When people praise our ministry they are not praising our persons,
VERSE 26. Provoking one another, envying one another.
Such is the ill effect of vainglory. Those who teach errors provoke
others. When others disapprove and reject the doctrine the teachers of
errors get angry in turn, and then you have strife and trouble. The sectarians
hate us furiously because we will not approve their errors. We did not
attack them directly. We merely called attention to certain abuses in the
Church. They did not like it and became sore at us, because it hurt their
pride. They wish to be the lone rulers of the church.
CHAPTER 6 VERSE 1. Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault ye
which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness.
If we carefully weigh the words of the Apostle we perceive that he does
not speak of doctrinal faults and errors, but of much lesser faults by
which a person is overtaken through the weakness of his flesh. This explains
why the Apostle chooses the softer term "fault." To minimize the offense
still more, as if he meant to excuse it altogether and to take the whole
blame away from the person who has committed the fault, he speaks of him
as having been "overtaken," seduced by the devil and of the flesh. As if
he meant to say, "What is more human than for a human being to fall, to
be deceived and to err?" This comforting sentence at one time saved my
life. Because Satan always assails both the purity of doctrine which he
endeavors to take away by schisms and the purity of life which he spoils
with his continual temptations to sin, Paul explains how the fallen should
be treated. Those who are strong are to raise up the fallen in the spirit
This ought to be borne in mind particularly by the ministers of the
Word in order that they may not forget the parental attitude which Paul
here requires of those who have the keeping of souls. Pastors and ministers
must, of course, rebuke the fallen, but when they see that the fallen are
sorry they are to comfort them by excusing the fault as well as they can.
As unyielding as the Holy Spirit is in the matter of maintaining and defending
the doctrine of faith, so mild and merciful is He toward men for their
sins as long as sinners repent.
The Pope's synagogue teaches the exact opposite of what the Apostle
commands. The clerics are tyrants and butchers of men's conscience. Every
small offense is closely scrutinized. To justify the cruel inquisitiveness
they quote the statement of Pope Gregory: "It is the property of good lives
to be afraid of a fault where there is no fault." "Our censors must be
feared, even if they are unjust and wrong." On these pronouncements the
papists base their doctrine of excommunication. Rather than terrify and
condemn men's consciences, they ought to raise them up and comfort them
with the truth.
Let the ministers of the Gospel learn from Paul how to deal with those
who have sinned. "Brethren," he says, "if any man be overtaken with a fault,
do not aggravate his grief, do not scold him, do not condemn him, but lift
him up and gently restore his faith. If you see a brother despondent over
a sin he has committed, run up to him, reach out your hand to him, comfort
him with the Gospel and embrace him like a mother. When you meet a willful
sinner who does not care, go after him and rebuke him sharply." But this
is not the treatment for one who has been overtaken by a sin and is sorry.
He must be dealt with in the spirit of meekness and not in the spirit of
severity. A repentant sinner is not to be given gall and vinegar to drink.
VERSE 1. Considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
This consideration is very much needed to put a stop to the severity
of some pastors who show the fallen no mercy. St. Augustine says: "There
is no sin which one person has committed, that another person may not commit
it also." We stand in slippery places. If we become overbearing and neglect
our duty, it is easy enough to fall into sin. In the book entitled "The
Lives of Our Fathers," one of the Fathers is reported to have said when
informed that a brother had fallen into adultery: "He fell yesterday; I
may fall today." Paul therefore warns the pastors not to be too rigorous
and unmerciful towards offenders, but to show them every affection, always
remembering: "This man fell into sin; I may fall into worse sin. If those
who are always so eager to condemn others would investigate themselves
they would find that the sins of others are motes in comparison to their
"Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
(I Cor. 10:12.) If David who was a hero of faith and did so many great
things for the Lord, could fall so badly that in spite of his advanced
age he was overcome by youthful lust after he had withstood so many different
temptations with which the Lord had tested his faith, who are we to think
that we are more stable? These object lessons of God should convince us
that of all things God hates pride.
VERSE 2. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of
The Law of Christ is the Law of love. Christ gave us no other law than
this law of mutual love: "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love
one another." To love means to bear another's burdens. Christians must
have strong shoulders to bear the burdens of their fellow Christians. Faithful
pastors recognize many errors and offenses in the church, which they oversee.
In civil affairs an official has to overlook much if he is fit to rule.
If we can overlook our own shortcomings and wrong-doings, we ought to overlook
the shortcomings of others in accordance with the words, "Bear ye one another's
Those who fail to do so expose their lack of understanding of the law
of Christ. Love, according to Paul, "believeth all things, hopeth all things,
endureth all things." This commandment is not meant for those who deny
Christ; neither is it meant for those who continue to live in sin. Only
those who are willing to hear the Word of God and then inadvertently fall
into sin to their own great sorrow and regret, carry the burdens which
the Apostle encourages us to bear. Let us not be hard on them. If Christ
did not punish them, what right have we to do it?
VERSE 3. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing,
he deceiveth himself.
Again the Apostle takes the authors of sects to task for being hard-hearted
tyrants. They despise the weak and demand that everything be just so. Nothing
suits them except what they do. Unless you eulogize whatever they say or
do, unless you adapt yourself to their slightest whim, they become angry
with you. They are that way because, as St. Paul says, they "think themselves
to be something," they think they know all about the Scriptures.
Paul has their number when he calls them zeros. They deceive themselves
with their self-suggested wisdom and holiness. They have no understanding
of Christ or the law of Christ. By insisting that everything be perfect
they not only fail to bear the burdens of the weak, they actually offend
the weak by their severity. People begin to hate and shun them and refuse
to accept counsel or comfort from them.
Paul describes these stiff and ungracious saints accurately when he
says of them, "They think themselves to be something." Bloated by their
own silly ideas and schemes they entertain a pretty fair opinion of themselves,
when in reality they amount to nothing.
VERSE 4. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he
have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.
In this verse the Apostle continues his attack upon the vainglorious
sectarians. Although this passage may be applied to any work, the Apostle
has in mind particularly the work of the ministry.
The trouble with these seekers after glory is that they never stop to
consider whether their ministry is straightforward and faithful. All they
think about is whether people will like and praise them. Theirs is a threefold
sin. First, they are greedy of praise. Secondly, they are very sly and
wily in suggesting that the ministry of other pastors is not what it should
be. By way of contrast they hope to rise in the estimation of the people.
Thirdly, once they have established a reputation for themselves they become
so chesty that they stop short of nothing. When they have won the praise
of men, pride leads them on to belittle the work of other men and to applaud
their own. In this artful manner they hoodwink the people who rather enjoy
to see their former pastors taken down a few notches by such upstarts.
"Let a minister be faithful in his office," is the apostolic injunction.
"Let him not seek his own glory or look for praise. Let him desire to do
good work and to preach the Gospel in all its purity. Whether an ungrateful
world appreciates his efforts is to give him no concern because, after
all, he is in the ministry not for his own glory but for the glory of Christ."
A faithful minister cares little what people think of him, as long as
his conscience approves of him. The approval of his own good conscience
is the best praise a minister can have. To know that we have taught the
Word of God and administered the sacraments rightly is to have a glory
that cannot be taken away.
The glory which the sectarians seek is quite unstable, because it rests
in the whim of people. If Paul had had to depend on this kind of glory
for his ministry he would have despaired when he saw the many offenses
and evils following in the wake of his preaching.
If we had to feel that the success of our ministry depended upon our
popularity with men we would die, because we are not popular. On the contrary,
we are hated by the whole world with rare bitterness. Nobody praises us.
Everybody finds fault with us. But we can glory in the Lord and attend
to our work cheerfully. Who cares whether our efforts please or displease
the devil? Who cares whether the world praises or hates us? We go ahead
"by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report." (II Cor. 6:8.)
The Gospel entails persecution. The Gospel is that kind of a doctrine.
Furthermore, the disciples of the Gospel are not all dependable. Many embrace
the Gospel today and tomorrow discard it. To preach the Gospel for praise
is bad business especially when people stop praising you. Find your praise
in the testimony of a good conscience.
This passage may also be applied to other work besides the ministry.
When an official, a servant, a teacher minds his business and performs
his duty faithfully without concerning himself about matters that are not
in his line he may rejoice in himself. The best commendation of any work
is to know that one has done the work that God has given him well and that
God is pleased with his effort.
VERSE 5. Every man shall bear his own burden.
That means: For anybody to covet praise is foolish because the praise
of men will be of no help to you in the hour of death. Before the judgment
throne of Christ everybody will have to bear his own burden. As it is the
praise of men stops when we die. Before the eternal Judge it is not praise
that counts but your own conscience.
True, the consciousness of work well done cannot quiet the conscience.
But it is well to have the testimony of a good conscience in the last judgment
that we have performed our duty faithfully in accordance with God's will.
For the suppression of pride we need the strength of prayer. What man
even if he is a Christian is not delighted with his own praise? Only the
Holy Spirit can preserve us from the misfortune of pride.