11. Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine
11. Videtis, qualibus literis vobis scripserim mea manu.
12. As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain
you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the
cross of Christ.
12. Quicunque volunt placere juxta faciem in carne, hi cogunt vos
circumcidi; tantum ut ne persequutionem sustineant cruce Christi.
13. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law;
but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.
13. Neque enim qui circumciduntur, ipsi Legera servant; sed volunt
vos circumcidi, ut in carne vestra glorientur.
11. Ye see. The meaning of the Greek verb i]dete, is so far doubtful
that it may be taken either in the imperative or indicative mood; but the
force of the passage is little if at all affected. To convince the Galatians
more fully of his anxiety about them, and at the same time to ensure their
careful perusal, he mentions that this long Epistle had been written with
his own hand. The greater the toil to which he had submitted on their account,
the stronger were their inducements to read it, not in a superficial manner,
but with the closest attention.
12. As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh. Such
men pay no regard to edification, but are guided by an ambitious desire
to hunt after popular applause. The Greek verb eujproswph~sai, is highly
expressive, and denotes the kind looks and address which were assumed for
the purpose of pleasing. He charges the false apostles with ambition. As
if he had said, “When those men lay circumcision upon you as a necessary
burden, do you wish to know what sort of persons they are, what are the
objects of their regard or pursuit? You are mistaken if you imagine that
they are at all influenced by godly zeal. To gain or preserve the favor
of men is the object they have in view in offering this bribe.” It was
because they were Jews that they adopted this method of retaining the good-will,
or at least allaying the resentment, of their own nation. It is the usual
practice of ambitious men meanly to fawn on those from whose favor they
hope to derive advantage, and to insinuate themselves into their good graces,
that, when better men have been displaced, they may enjoy the undivided
power. This wicked design he lays open to the Galatians, in order to put
them on their guard.
Only lest they should suffer persecution. The pure preaching
of the gospel is again designated the cross of Christ. But there is likewise
an allusion to their favourite scheme of resolving to preach Christ without
the cross. The deadly rage by which the Jews were animated against Paul,
arose from their being unable to endure a neglect of ceremonies. To avoid
persecution, those men flattered the Jews. Yet after all, if they had themselves
kept the law, their conduct might have been suffered. On the contrary,
they disturbed the whole church for the sake of their personal ease, and
scrupled not to lay a tyrannical yoke on the consciences of men, that they
might be entirely freed from bodily uneasiness. A dread of the cross led
them to corrupt the true preaching of the cross.
13. For neither they who hold by circumcision keep the law. The
old version and Erasmus translate thus: who are circumcised. But Paul appears
to me to refer to teachers only; and for this reason I would prefer to
render the words, those who hold by circumcision, which would not include
all circumcised persons, and thus would avoid ambiguity. The meaning is,
“It is not from a strong attachment to the law that they bind you with
the yoke of ceremonies; for, even with their own circumcision, they do
not keep the law. It is no doubt under the pretext of the law that they
require you to be circumcised; but, though they have themselves been circumcised,
they do not perform what they enjoin upon others.” When he says, indeed,
that they do not keep the law, it is doubtful whether he refers to the
whole law, or to ceremonies. Some understand him as saying that the law
is an intolerable burden, and therefore they do not satisfy its demands.
But he rather insinuates against them a charge of insincerity, because,
except when it suited their own designs, they found themselves at liberty
to despise the law.
Even now this disease rages everywhere with virulence. You will find
many who are prompted more by ambition than by conscience to defend the
tyranny of the papal system. I speak of our courtly apostles, who are attracted
by the smell of a kitchen, and who pronounce, with an air of authority,
that the decrees of the holy Church of Rome must be observed with reverence.
And what is their own practice all the while! They pay no more regard to
any decisions of the Roman see than to the braying of an ass, but they
take care to avoid personal risk. In short, Paul had the same kind of controversy
with those impostors as we now have with hypocritical professors of the
gospel, who hold out to us a monstrous union between Christ and the Pope.
Paul therefore declares that they are not acting the part of honest men,
and that they have no other object in enjoining circumcision than to boast
to the Jews of the converts they have made. Such is the import of the words,
that they may glory in your flesh. “They wish to triumph over you, and
to gratify their own desire of applause, by offering up your mutilated
flesh to the false zealots of the law, as a token of peace and harmony.”
14. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our
Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the
14. Mihi antem absit gloriari, nisi in truce Domini nostri Iesu
Christi, per quam mundus mihi crucifixus est, et ego mundo.
15. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing,
nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
15. Nam in Christo neque circumcisio quicquam valet, neque praeputium;
sed nova creatura.
16. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them,
and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
16. Et quicunque hac regula ambulabunt, pax super eos et misericordia,
et super Israelem Dei.
17. From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body
the marks of the Lord Jesus.
17. In reliquis nemo facessat mihi molestiam; ego enim stigmata
Domini Iesu in corpore meo porto.
18. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.Amen.
18. Gratia Domini nostri Iesu Christi cum spiritu vestro, fratres.
14. But God forbid that I should glory. The designs of the false
apostles are here contrasted with his own sincerity. As if he had said,
“To avoid being compelled to bear a cross, they deny the cross of Christ,
purchase with your flesh the applause of men, and end by triumphing over
you. But my triumph and my glory are in the cross of the Son of God.” If
the Galatians had not been utterly destitute of common sense, ought they
not to have held in abhorrence the men whom they beheld making sport of
their dangerous condition.
To glory in the cross of Christ, is to glory in Christ crucified. But
something more is implied. In that death, — so full of disgrace and ignominy,
which God himself has pronounced to be accursed, and which men are wont
to view with abhorrence and shame, — in that death he will glory, because
he obtains in it perfect happiness. Where man’s highest good exists, there
is his glory. But why does not Paul seek it elsewhere? Though salvation
is held out to us in the cross of Christ, what does he think of his resurrection?
I answer, in the cross redemption in all its parts is found, but the resurrection
of Christ does not lead us away from the cross. And let it be carefully
observed, that every other kind of glorying is rejected by him as nothing
short of a capital offense. “May God protect us from such a fearful calamity!”
Such is the import of the phrase which Paul constantly employs, God forbid.
By Which the world is crucified. As the Greek word for cross,
stauro<v, is masculine, the relative pronoun may be either rendered
by whom, or by which, according as we refer it to Christ or to the cross.
In my opinion, however, it is more proper to apply it to the cross; for
by it strictly we die to the world. But what is the meaning of the world?
It is unquestionably contrasted with the new creature. Whatever is opposed
to the spiritual kingdom of Christ is the world, because it belongs to
the old man; or, in a word, the world is the object and aim of the old
The world is crucified to me. This exactly agrees with the language
which he employs on another occasion.
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ; yea
doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge
of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things,
and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:7, 8.)
To crucify the world is to treat it with contempt and disdain.
He adds, and I unto the world. By this he means that he regarded himself
as unworthy to be taken into the account, and indeed as utterly annihilated;
because this was a matter with which a dead man had nothing to do. At all
events, he means, that by the mortification of the old man he had renounced
the world. Some take his meaning to be, “If the world looks upon me as
abhorred and excommunicated, I consider the world to be condemned and accursed.”
This appears to me to be overstrained, but I leave my readers to judge.
15. For in Christ Jesus. The reason why he is crucified to the
world, and the world to him, is, that in Christ, to whom he is spiritually
united, nothing but a new creature is of any avail. Everything else must
be dismissed, must perish. I refer to those things which hinder the renewing
of the Spirit. “If any man be in Christ” says he, “let him be a new creature.”
(2 Corinthians 5:17.) That is, if any man wishes to be considered as belonging
to the kingdom of Christ, let him be created anew by the Spirit of God;
let him not live any longer to himself or to the world, but let him be
raised up to “newness of life.” (Romans 6:4.) His reasons for concluding
that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any importance, have
been already considered. The truth of the gospel swallows up, and brings
to nought, all the shatlows of the law.
16. And as many as walk according to this rule. “May they enjoy
all prosperity and happiness!” This is not; merely a prayer in their behalf,
but a token of approbation. His meaning therefore is, that those who teach
this doctrine are worthy of all esteem and regard, and those who reject
it do not deserve to be heard. The word rule denotes the regular and habitual
course which all godly ministers of the gospel ought to pursue. Architects
employ a model in the erection of buildings, to assist thetn in preserving
the proper form and just proportions. Such a model (kano>na) does the apostle
prescribe to the ministers of the word, who are to build the church “according
to the pattern shewn to them.” (Hebrews 8:5.)
Faithful and upright teachers, and all who allow themselves to conform
to this rule, must derive singular encouragement from this passage, in
which God, by the mouth of Paul, pronounces on them a blessing. We have
no cause to dread the thunders of the Pope, if God promises to us from
heaven peace and mercy. The word walk may apply both to a minister and
to his people, though it refers chiefly to ministers. The future tense
of the verb, (o[soi stoich>sousin,) as many as shall walk, is intended
to express perseverance.
And upon the Israel of God. This is an indirect ridicule of the
vain boasting of the false apostles, who vaunted of being the descendants
of Abraham according to the flesh. There are two classes who bear this
name, a pretended Israel, which appears to be so in the sight of men, —
and the Israel of God. Circumcision was a disguise before men, but regeneration
is a truth before God. In a word, he gives the appellation of the Israel
of God to those whom he formerly denominated the children of Abraham by
faith, (Galatians 3:29,) and thus includes all believers, whether Jews
or Gentiles, who were united into one church. On the contrary, the name
and lineage are the sole boast of Israel according to the flesh; and this
led the apostle to argue in the Epistle to the Romans, that “they are not
all Israel which are of Israel, neither because they are the seed of Abraham,
are they all children.” (Romans 9:6, 7.)
17. Let no man trouble me. He now speaks with the voice of authority
for restraining his adversaries, and employs language which his high rank
fully authorized. “Let them cease to throw hinderances in the course of
my preaching.” He was prepared, for the sake of the church, to encounter
difficulties, but does not choose to be interrupted by contradiction. Let
no man trouble me. Let no man make opposition to obstruct the progress
of my work.
As to everything else, (tou~ loipou~,) that is, as to everything besides
the new creature. “This one thing is enough for me. Other matters are of
no importance, and give me no concern. Let no man question me about them.”
He thus places himself above all men, and allows to none the power of attacking
his ministry. Literally, the phrase signifies, as to the rest or the remainder,
which Erasmus, in my opinion, has improperly applied to time.
For I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. This accounts
for his bold, authoritative language. And what were those marks? Imprisonment,
chains, scourging, blows, stoning, and every kind of injurious treatment
which he had incurred in bearing testimony to the gospel. Earthly warfare
has its honors, in conferring which a general holds out to public view
the bravery of a soldier. So Christ our leader has his own marks, of which
he makes abundant use, for conferring on some of his followers a high distinction.
These marks, however, differ from the other in one important respect, that
they partake of the nature of the cross, and in the sight of the world
are disgraceful. This is suggested by the word translated marks, (sti>gmata,)
for it literally denotes the marks with which barbarian slaves, or fugitives,
or malefactors, were usually branded. Paul, therefore, can hardly be said
to use a figure, when he boasts of shining in those marks with which Christ
is accustomed to honor his most distinguished soldiers, which in the eye
of the world were attended by shame and disgrace, but which before God
and the angels surpass all the honors of the world.
18. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. His
prayer is not only that God may bestow upon them his grace in large measure,
but that they may have a proper feeling of it in their hearts. Then only
is it truly enjoyed by us, when it comes to our spirit. We ought therefore
to entreat that God would prepare in our souls a habitation for his grace.