Reflections on Galatians

W W Fereday

Extracted from the Bible Treasury Volume N1 page 105 etc.

Galatians 1:1-10
Galatians 1:11-24
Galatians 2:1-10
Galatians 2:11-21
Galatians 3:1-9
Galatians 3:10-14
Galatians 3:15-20
Galatians 3:21-29
Galatians 4:1-7
Galatians 4:8-18
Galatians 4:19-31
Galatians 5:1-5
Galatians 5:6-12
Galatians 5:13-18
Galatians 5:19-26
Galatians 6:3-10


The epistle to the Galatians has a character peculiarly its own. It is not an orderly doctrinal treatise as Romans, nor an unfolding of the eternal counsels of God as Ephesians, but an earnest effort on the part of the apostle (guided by the Holy Ghost) to recover to the truth souls who were being allured from it. Scripture has many uses, as we learn in 2 Tim. 3:16, not the least important being "correction". It is to be noted that we owe a large measure of revealed truth (humanly speaking) to the failure and delusion of man. So wondrously does the goodness of God rise above man's evil.

Paul had planted the gospel of Christ in Galatia. Though through (or, in) infirmity of the flesh he preached to them, they received him as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus (Gal. 4:13-14). But alas! the enemy followed in his track. Men from Jerusalem, ever ready to subvert the heavenly testimony of the apostle insinuated themselves among them, telling them that, unless they added circumcision and the law of Moses to their faith in Christ, they could not be saved. In every direction Paul had to meet the same efforts: so ready is man to teach and to adopt that which puts honour on flesh.

Apostolic energy checked it to a large degree; but when this was removed, how widely and generally the Galatian leaven spread! The general condition of souls in Christendom in our own day tells a sorrowful tale. In connection with this Judaising, the law-teachers invariably called in question the apostleship of Paul as being independent of the twelve and of Jerusalem. This the apostle explains in Galatians 1 and Galatians 2, and speaks of his connections with the twelve specially with Peter, whom he had to publicly rebuke for dissimulation at Antioch.

In Galatians 3 he challenges them as to their reception of the Spirit, and his own working of miracles among them. On what principle had all this been — faith or works? Faith surely. The contrariety of the two principles is then plainly shown, and in connection with Abraham, the question is then raised as to the relation of law to promise. The law was added subsequently "because of transgression, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made". But what was the state of believers before the coming of the Seed"? (Galatians 4) It was that of infancy. They were kept "under tutors and governors" — "were in bondage under the elements of the world". Believers now whether Jews or Gentiles are sons, and have the gift of the Spirit, "whereby we cry, Abba, Father". The apostle then appeals touchingly to them, reminding them of their happiness when he was among them.

He desires them to hear the law, i.e. the Old Testament Scriptures. Had they not heard of Sarah and Hagar? These set forth the two covenants. The fruit of the one was cast out, while the child of promise inherited the blessing "We are not children of the bondwoman but of the free".

The Galatians were to stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ makes free and not be entangled again in the yoke of bondage (Galatians 5). If they adopted circumcision they were debtors to do the whole law, and upon that ground Christ availed them nothing. This persuasion was not of God. He had not led them to this: they had been hindered in their race — turned aside by the enemy. But he had confidence in them through the Lord. Yet those who had beguiled them should bear their judgment.

At v. 13 the apostle enters upon another phase. If the law cannot justify, can it sanctify? Is it the believer's rule of life? Nay, Christians have been called in this respect also to liberty. Such are to walk in the Spirit, and thus flesh is subdued. The law provokes sin — it does not produce holiness. But the Holy Spirit is in the believer to work this out. The works of the flesh are known, and to be shunned: the fruit of the Spirit is looked for in all in whom He dwells. But if any be overtaken in a fault (Galatians 6), the spiritual are to restore him in the spirit of meekness. The law of Christ is to be considered, not that of Moses. If responsibility cannot be shifted, godly care is to be exercised over each other. We get here God's standing governmental principle, "whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap". Was it flesh or spirit the Galatians were sowing to! Their law-teachers sought a fair show in the flesh, and to avoid persecution. As for the apostle, he would glory in nothing but the cross of the Lord Jesus. He bore in his body His stigmas (or, brands). Let none trouble him. Such, briefly, is our epistle.

As evidence of his deep concern for these brethren, and the grave light in which he regarded their departure, the apostle mentions that he wrote this letter with his own hand (Galatians 6:11).

Galatians 1:1-10

The opening address is remarkable for its singularity. "Paul an apostle (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father Who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren which are with me, to the churches of Galatia." He is careful to assert his apostleship and the source of it, the Judaising teachers of his day invariably calling it in question while seeking to undermine the doctrine of free grace (2 Cor. 11 to 13). It was an offence to such that Paul had not received his commission from the twelve and from Jerusalem. So petty and narrow is the human mind that it is slow to enter into the breadth of God's thoughts and the divine sovereignty of His action. These men would have had Christianity revolve around Jerusalem as a centre, and would have supplemented faith in Christ with circumcision and the ordinances of the law. But God's thoughts are not as men's thoughts. Christianity is no mere branch of Judaism (which had a divinely selected earthly centre), but a totally new order of blessing, founded upon the work of Christ, having its seat in heaven, where Christ sits as the glorified Head at the right hand of God.

It is true that Paul had not been called from Jerusalem. He was called to both grace and apostleship near Damascus, and when sent forth to evangelize the Gentile world, it was from Antioch. Thus early did God break in upon successional order. Therefore, while asserting his apostleship, he adds, "not of men, neither by man." He sets man aside, as either the source or the channel of ministry. The source of all ministry is the risen Christ. "When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men. And he gave some apostles," etc. (Eph. 4). Here there is no room either for official men or the church. The authority of the former is in every case pretended, not real, while the latter has no place, according to Scripture, save as a receiver of all the blessing. It is an infringement of the rights of Christ for either to step in between Himself and His servants. Yet how general is the departure from scripture in this very respect! In what religious body in Christendom could ministry be described as "not of men, neither by man"? Many would probably assert that man is not the source of ministry, but can anyone say that man is not the universally recognized channel? Human authority, is one form or another, is looked for on all sides, ere a man can be regarded as a "regular" minister of Christ. Scripture furnishes no warrant whatever for such a notion, though it be ancient. Labourers are responsible to the Lord alone, Who fits, calls, and gives them to the church.

But here we must distinguish between gift and office. Scripture speaks plainly of elders and deacons. Elders were chosen by the apostles, either personally or by delegate, to care for the spiritual state of the saints locally; deacons were nominated by the assembly to undertake the temporal affairs, as caring for widows, etc.. Both classes were apostolically appointed. But this was not for the ministry of the word. It was not an absolute requisite for men of either class to be able to labour in word and doctrine. No doubt, where this was, the labourer was worthy of double honour (Acts 14:23, Acts 6:3-6; 1 Tim. 5:17).

But ministry, if Scripture is to be followed, is free, those who have received gifts being responsible to the Lord Jesus to exercise them. Good doctrine, not official appointment, was to be looked for (compare 3 John). When Apollos went to Ephesus, it was not his ordination that was enquired into, but his doctrine; and having approved himself there (after godly help), being "disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote exhorting the disciples to receive him" (Acts 19). And when at a later date, Paul greatly desired him to go to Corinth, it was not at all his will to go at that time (1 Cor. 16:12). Liberty prevailed all round in apostolic days when the truth was held fast, as the apostle himself records.

Paul was not alone in his earnest protest to the Galatians, He adds, "and all the brethren which are with me." This was to silence objectors.

2 Cor. 11, 12 shows what base insinuations his opponents could throw out. Therefore he is careful to show that what he wrote was with the full concurrence of all who were associated with him in the work. He briefly addresses them as "the churches of Galatia." He does not add, "beloved of God," as to the Romans, nor "to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus," as to the Corinthians. It is the shortest possible address, unlike the general style of the affectionate apostle. How could it be otherwise? The souls were trifling with the very foundations of Christianity; what could he say for them? "I stand in doubt of you," he says farther on. Nothing was more serious, in his judgment, than to turn to the law after confession of faith in Christ, still his heart was towards them. If he was not so expressive as usual, he could wish most unfeignedly "Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ." This word is specially important, if only because of its constant repetition in the New Testament. But the Galatians could not enjoy either grace or peace while they trafficked with law. These are the precious fruits of the work of Jesus, and for the enjoyment of our souls day by day.

But the apostle adds of our Lord Jesus, "Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world (age), according to the will of God and our Father; to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen." What more could He give for our sins than Himself, and what else would have availed? He bare the sins of the many, and they are gone, cast into the depths of the sea. But was the putting away of sins the only object of His work? Nay, there is more, "That he might deliver us from this present evil world." Is it strange that such a word should come in here? By no means. It was needed urgently in Galatia. To follow the law is an aspect of worldliness, however startling it may sound to some. Law was given to correct and restrain flesh, and to direct man viewed as living the world. But the Christian has died and is risen; so that Paul could say, "Why as though living in the world?" etc. (Col. 2:20). Where this is understood, the heart is proof against legalism, because it enjoys a heavenly Christ as its only object. If the Galatians ever knew this, they were letting it slip.

The apostle expresses his astonishment at their early declension from the truth. "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you in the grace of Christ to a different gospel; which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ." Theirs was not gradual decay after long years of profession, but a very sudden turning aside. How could they be so fickle? To turn now to law was to turn from God. He had called them by Paul to grace, not law. Time was, when to follow the law was to walk with God. But faith is come, and those who were under the schoolmaster are so no longer. For Gentiles, after profession of faith in Christ, to turn to law, is to turn from God. No wonder the apostle stood in doubt of the Galatians! But he would not admit that it was another gospel. There were no glad tidings different from those preached by him with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. It was a perversion of the gospel of Christ, and the men were troublers, and should bear their judgment.

Paul felt that the foundations were at stake, which made him vehement. "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed." Faith working by love can speak strongly at times, when the truth of Christ is involved. The apostle would pronounce anathema upon himself if ever he corrupted the gospel committed to his trust.

But it was possible that those Judaisers might seek to persuade the Galatians that they had not received all the gospel and that what they taught was merely supplementary, and what the apostle would have set before them had he remained long enough. This would be plausible, but it is met, "As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel to you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." Paul had taught them all, and they had received all; all pretended developments were but error. In speaking so strongly, the apostle had Christ before him, not men. "For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." Paul had not learned the unwholesome principle of our day, that for unity's sake all sorts of error should be tolerated. None could be more careful than he not to unnecessarily wound any, nor could any be more considerate to souls who were slow in their growth in the truth; but when the foundations of Christianity were undermined or attacked, the apostle forgot men, and acted for Christ. An important principle for our souls at the present crisis.

Galatians 1:11-24.

It was necessary that he should speak of his relations with the twelve. Had he received his instructions from them, or any sort of appointment from them? hearken: "But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." Thus does he assert the entire independence of his ministry, and its heavenly origin. His gospel could not have been derived from the Jerusalem labourers, because, while not contradicting theirs in anywise, it went far beyond them.

It will be observed by every careful reader of scripture that the gospel as preached by Peter and Paul, though in both the Spirit's testimony to Christ, had decidedly different characteristics. Peter spoke of One who had walked here well known by all the Jews, who had been crucified by wicked men, yet raised up by God and exalted to glory, in Whose name remission of sins is now preached to all. Paul, on the other hand, starts with His glory.* His testimony was not of One who walked here (though he speaks of his wondrous pathway as a pattern for our souls, Phil. 2). On the contrary, he wrote, "Henceforth know we no man after the flesh; yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more" (2 Cor. 5:16).

* It is interesting to observe how the character of his call to grace and apostleship stamped itself upon all his after ministry. We see something analogous to Isaiah. At his call, he saw the glory of Jehovah and heard His holiness proclaimed (Isa. 6). No prophet speaks so largely of the display of that glory in the coming day, and none uses so freely the title, "the Holy One of Israel."

His testimony was of One, Who, having accomplished redemption, is now in glory, the Second Man, head of a new race, in Whom believers are justified and accepted, and with Whom we are one body by the Holy Ghost. All this, and more, he had by revelation, not through a human medium. Not that Paul despised the fellowship of any of his brethren — his many appeals in his Epistles for their prayers prove the contrary; nor that he undervalued the counsel of those who had been longer engaged in the service of Christ than himself; but he would preserve intact his own direct responsibility to the Lord, as having been called and commissioned from above, altogether apart from man.

His early training in Judaism was in no sense a preparation for his apostolic ministry. He had been a persecutor, and a very extreme one. "For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God and wasted it; and profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly jealous of the traditions of my fathers." The divine sovereignty in the choice of the vessel is strikingly seen. Who more suitable to write the Epistle to the Galatians? Who better fitted to enforce justification by faith alone, to the exclusion of works, thus pouring contempt on the first man, and all his efforts after righteousness? Who better fitted to show the believer's entire deliverance from law? Could a converted publican do it as well? I am not overlooking the Spirit's inspiration in writing thus, but merely drawing attention to the display of divine wisdom in the use of one who profited in Judaism above his contemporaries, blameless and zealous, to unfold Christianity in its highest aspect, setting the believer entirely free from law, and all that pertains to the first man.

Accordingly, when called by God, he conferred not with flesh and blood, nor sought human credentials, but went into Arabia, etc.. "But when it pleased God who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood; neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia and returned again to Damascus." Observe the peculiarity of the expression — "to reveal His Son in me". He is the only apostle who uses the phrase, and it is characteristic. To Peter the Father revealed His Son (Matt. 16); but Paul's word goes farther. It involves union with Christ, and of this truth Paul was the honoured exponent. He learned the elements of it in his conversion. The immense fact was brought to bear upon him that in persecuting the saints he was persecuting Christ, for the saints were in Him and He in them.

Having received such a call, the apostle acted upon his direct responsibility to the Lord, without any human medium. He went in to Arabia (after a brief testimony, it would seem, in the synagogues of Damascus, Acts 9), and thence returned to the scene of his conversion. What a passing by of those who were somewhat in the church! He did not go up to Jerusalem for some time, and then merely on a visit to the apostle of the circumcision; not to be instructed or appointed in any way. This he shows plainly. "Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none save James the Lord's brother. Now the things which I write to you, behold before God I lie not." It is clear that he was most anxious to show that there was no sort of subordination to the twelve, nor commission from them. It was so ordered that only two of the apostles were at home at the same time. It might be a reproach in the eyes of the Galatians; but Jerusalem and the twelve were certainly not the source of his ministry.

He was also, at least at first, very little known by the Jewish saints in general. Though he loved them well, and at a later date found pleasure in carrying to them Gentile offerings, his work did not lie among them, but in the regions beyond. Hence we read, "Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, and was unknown by face to the churches of Judæa which were in Christ; but they had heard only that he which persecuted us in times past, now preaches the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me." How transforming is divine grace, turning a thief into a giver (Eph. 4:28), and a persecutor into a preacher; but what a rebuke for the assemblies of Galatia! They were criticizing the devoted apostle, and slighting him because his ministry had not a Jewish source; while the assemblies of Judæa (from whom he might naturally expect more or less prejudice) glorified God for His admirable work of sovereign favour. Those who had been called to the grace of Christ by his means were positively behind brethren of the circumcision in such an important respect!

Galatians 2:1-10.

The apostle proceeds to speak further of his connections with the twelve, and relates his second visit to Jerusalem. "Then fourteen years after, I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also" (ver. 1). The circumstances of this visit are detailed in Acts 15. While Paul and Barnabas were labouring at Antioch, certain men from Jerusalem got in among the brethren, and taught them that, unless they were circumcised after the manner of Moses, they could not be saved. This led to much dissension and disputation, for the apostle would not quietly suffer the foundations of the faith to be thus assailed; but God so ordered it that the question was not settled on the spot. Paul and Barnabas, with other deputies, were despatched to the Jewish metropolis to discuss the question with the apostles and elders. Thus did God preserve unity all round. He would cause the leaders of the Jewish brethren, resident in the very city from which the trouble emanated, to declare the entire freedom of Gentile believers from the law of Moses.

The discussion is given in Acts 15 where Peter describes the law as a yoke "which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear;" and concludes his speech with the memorable words, "But we believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they." Remark, not "they even as we," but "we [Jews] as they" (Gentiles), all fleshly distinctions being now obliterated through the cross of Christ.

But if Acts 15 gives us the human and circumstantial side of Paul's journey, our epistle shows the divine side. "I went up by revelation." It was thus not merely a matter between Paul and the troubled assembly, or between Paul and the twelve; but he was directly sent of the Lord. He now seeks conference with those whom he had rather avoided before. "I communicated to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles; but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain" (ver. 2). Here we may see the wisdom of the apostle. He spoke privately to the leaders before the public discussion came on, that it might be manifest that there was no contradiction (whatever difference there might be) in the teaching of those who laboured, whether among Jews or Gentiles. He laid before the twelve the gospel which he preached among the Gentiles. Did they judge it defective, as those who had seduced the Galatians? Did they add to him anything? The context shows that they did neither; but rather that they recognized thankfully the grace of God which wrought in him, even though his line was altogether different from their own. When the Spirit is working, there is no room for human pettiness.

Verse 3 should be read as a parenthesis. "But neither Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised." In this Paul was very bold; yet it was not the boldness of defiance, but of Christian liberty. He took, in the face of all, an uncircumcised Gentile brother into the very centre of Judaism; and who that was taught of God (however full of Jewish feeling) could say him nay? Yet the apostle, we know, was always very considerate of Jewish scruples, making himself all things to all men for their blessing, as may be seen in his circumcision of Timothy in Acts 16, and in his instructions in Rom. 14. But Titus, unlike Timothy, was a pure Gentile, and it would have compromised the truth of the gospel to have circumcised him to please brethren among the Jews. Titus was saved as a Gentile, apart altogether from ordinances or works of law. This is brought forward here to show that even in Jerusalem was not required what the Galatians had proved themselves so ready to submit to.

Following upon the parenthesis, the apostle explains more fully the cause of his visit to Jerusalem at that time. "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 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"(vers. 4, 5). Thus does he speak of the proceedings at Antioch, of the efforts of the enemy, and of his own earnest resistance of them. How soon did the church fall a prey to evil men through unwatchfulness, when apostolic energy was no more!

Still, as we have seen, even the great apostle of the Gentiles, was not permitted of the Lord to settle this momentous question without reference to Jerusalem; and this for unity's sake; a precious and important principle in the sight of the Lord. But did Paul learn anything in Jerusalem? Was his knowledge of Christianity perfected there among the twelve? "But of these who seemed to be somewhat (whatsoever they were, it makes no matter to me: God accepts no man's person): for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me" (ver. 6). How could the Jewish leaders add anything to Paul? His gospel was beyond theirs, as is plain. He started with Christ's glory, and proclaimed its immense results to all who believe; they testified of One Who walked here, Who was crucified, and raised again by the power of God. The testimonies were not contradictory, but Paul's was in advance, nevertheless.

Therefore, instead of disagreeing with Paul, or seeking to alter the character of his ministry, as though it were faulty, or not of God, the twelve gave over the work among the Gentiles to Paul and Barnabas, mutually agreeing each to keep to his own line. "But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed to me, as the gospel of the circumcision was to Peter (for he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles): and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace which was given to me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship; that we should go to the heathen, and they to the circumcision" (vers. 8, 9). Whether among Jews or Gentiles, it was God who wrought; and the labourers were but the vessels of His grace. It is happy to observe these brethren, equally called and commissioned of God, recognizing the grace given to each other, even though their line was essentially different, and though they had received no sort of authority from each other.

Peter's place is very clearly defined here — the apostleship of the circumcision. Strange that perverse men should have fastened upon him, of all the twelve, to be the reputed founder and head of the great Gentile assembly of the West; and strange, too, that to this day the delusion should be maintained with all its soul-destroying appurtenances. Scripture speaks of but one apostle in Rome, Paul, not Peter; and that, not to found or head a church (there being an assembly there long before, and no apostle engaged in its foundation), but to be imprisoned and to die.

In giving up the Gentile work to Paul, the twelve expressed one important wish. "Only they would that ye should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do" (ver. 10). The loving compliance of the apostle may be seen in 2 Cor. 8 and 9. The dearth in Judæa furnished an occasion for the cementing of divine bonds, Gentile brethren coming forward with affectionate hearts to supply the need of fellow-members of the same body among the circumcision.

Galatians 2:11-21.

Paul closes the series of personal incidents in connection with the twelve, by relating Peter's sorrowful declension at Antioch. Instead of being resisted by Peter because of teaching a defective gospel (as some adversaries might have expected), Paul had to withstand him for compromising the truth of the gospel. "But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles; but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision" (vers. 11, 12). What a poor thing is man apart from sustaining grace! When Hezekiah was left to himself for a moment, he betrayed his trust, man of faith though he was ordinarily (2 Chr. 32:31). We only see perfection in One: He only has trodden the path unfalteringly and without defect. Where would the church have been if really built on Peter, as many say? At Antioch he completely broke down when the fundamental truth of the gospel was involved. During the early part of his stay there he enjoyed the fellowship of Gentile brethren, and felt perfectly free to go in and out of their houses, and eat with them. He enjoyed the liberty of grace, and regarded no man as common or unclean. But the fear of man brings a snare; and we soon behold the humbling spectacle of the very chiefest of the twelve turning completely aside because of the coming of certain Jewish brethren from Jerusalem. He forgot for the moment the lesson taught him on the housetop at Joppa, and his own statements concerning the Gentiles in the council at Jerusalem (Acts 10 & 15); and by withdrawing himself from his brethren of the uncircumcision, he built again the things he had destroyed, making differences where God makes none.

The infection spread. "And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him: insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation" (ver. 13). That the other Jews should follow their leader may not be a matter of surprise; but what can we say when we see even Paul's own fellow-labourer led astray! He who had laboured with Paul in the gospel, who had joined with him in planting Gentile assemblies in all quarters, and who had laboured with such acceptance and blessing in this very assembly — he of all persons should have been proof against such a thing as this. The Spirit describes him elsewhere as "a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and of faith" (Acts 11:24). Paul found much comfort in his fellowship, and they were doubtless divinely mated. But "the son of consolation" was apt to be weak at a crisis, as we see in the matter of John Mark (Acts 15:37). It is a great test for the saints when such men go astray. Satan knows how to beguile the lovely characters, that he may the better accomplish his unworthy ends. The personal qualities of such, their past faithful services, and the place they have won in consequence in the hearts of the saints, all combine to put the unwary off their guard, and thus to ensnare their souls. It is not safe to follow even "a good man," as many in our own days can sorrowfully testify. In such crises, the eye must be off men, and fixed upon the Lord, in order to arrive at a sound judgment.

But, thanks be to God, there was at least one faithful man at Antioch at that time. Painful as it doubtless was to the apostle, he promptly rebuked Peter publicly. The wounds of a friend are kind. "But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter 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? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the 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" (vers. 14-16). In so simple a matter as refusing to eat at table with brethren of the uncircumcision, Paul saw the truth of the gospel at stake. A straw is sufficient to show the course of a stream, and so the apostle judged. Peter had been living after the manner of the Gentiles, and had eaten and drunk all things in liberty; why, because some from James had come upon the scene, should he make a difference, and impose bondage upon the Gentiles? Paul reminded his Jewish brother of the ground on which they all stood before God. Had they ever found justification by law? Had the law ever done anything for them but condemn them? Had not both Peter and himself believed in Jesus Christ that they might be justified by faith? Had they not both learned that by works of law no flesh shall be justified? Then why deny all this, and put a yoke upon the necks of the disciples that none had yet been able to bear? The apostle then reasons with the Galatians. If they really were under law, they were sinners; for law convicts of sin all who are under it; and in linking together Christ and law, they virtually made Him responsible for such a condition. "But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid" (ver. 17). Probably they had not thought of this. Satan in leading souls astray generally means more than they mean. To get under his power in any way is to have one's susceptibilities blunted, and the vision dimmed.

Moreover to turn back to law, after having left it, is to constitute oneself a transgressor. "For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor" (ver. 18). Nothing can be plainer than this; and the principle is worthy of the deepest consideration in this day. If God brings souls out from under law, it is transgression to return to it in any form; while, on the other hand, if God does not thus deliver, it is transgression to leave it. Let the Galatians solve the question before God. Was He leading them there, or the enemy?

True deliverance from law is by death, as the apostle shows. "For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God" (ver. 19). Law is a killing power, a ministration of death, and but for divine intervention in grace, it would have been the eternal ruin of all who were under it. But Christ has come, death has come in — His death is ours. The sentence has taken full effect in Him for us — we have died, and that through law. But having thus died through the law, we are necessarily death to it — it has no further claim, as Rom 7 fully establishes. The law has nothing to do with dead men. We live to God, and bring forth fruit, in complete contrast to the former condition, when the motions of sins which were by the law wrought in our members to bring forth fruit to death. We were then in the flesh; we are now in the Spirit.

Therefore the apostle says, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives 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, and gave himself for me" (ver. 20). Here we get Christian life in a nutshell. Crucified with Christ, the old life closed with all its appurtenances; a new life possessed — Christ. The life is sustained by faith in its heavenly object, the Son of God. How blessed is this for the Christian! A positive new life implanted in the soul from God, indestructible, eternal, and divine; and its true object set before it. This is put too in the most touching possible way, for the apostle adds, "Who loved me, and gave himself for me." This draws out the affections, and produces heavenly fruit for God. Who would not be for ever adoringly occupied with such an One? What a contrast to mere cold legalism! Yet the heart is ever ready to return there, to its own loss and the Lord's dishonour.

To speak and act thus is not to frustrate divine grace. "I do not frustrate the grace of God; for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ died in vain" (ver. 21). The soul must be brought to this. If flesh were at all competent to attain to righteousness by law-keeping, the death of Christ was needless; but if (as was indeed the case) we were altogether without strength, grace (and that alone) can avail before our God. The soul that has learnt in any measure its ruin by nature is thankful and content to take its place as an object of abounding grace — grace founded upon the atoning death of the Lord Jesus.

Galatians 3:1-9.

The apostle enters now upon a different mode of dealing with the erring Galatians. In Galatians 1 & Galatians 2 he has been mainly occupied with the divine source and character of his ministry, these having been called in question because not received from the twelve. In the various incidents brought forward, we have seen that he was in no way appointed by the Jewish apostles, and that he had not been instructed by them. But we also see that there was no disagreement. They had given him the right hand of fellowship, that he and Barnabas should evangelize the heathen, while they pursued their work among the circumcision. Instead of being opposed and corrected by them, Paul shows that on one occasion he had to be the objector, and this in connection with no less a person than Peter. The twelve and himself were agreed that justification is by faith alone, not by works of law, and that the Gentiles were entirely free from law's obligations, however slow Jewish brethren might be to learn the lesson as regards themselves.

The apostle breaks out, "O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you*, before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth, crucified among you" (ver. 1)? We learn here the particular form the apostle's ministry had taken in those parts. Considerable variety in style is to be remarked in Paul's labours. Among the Thessalonians the Lord's coming was a very prominent theme; among the Athenians, stress was laid upon man's original relation to God as His creature; in Galatia and in Corinth the cross was to the front. It will be noticed that sometimes we read in the New Testament of the blood of Christ, sometimes of the death, and in other places of the cross. This is not in vain. The Spirit has a different line of truth for our souls in each of these varied expressions. The blood as particularly found (though not exclusively) in Hebrews, where the main theme is the atonement and its mighty results; the death of Christ is dwelt upon in Romans as the end of His life below, in which faith finds the end of the old man and all that pertains to him; the cross is before us in Galatians as an emblem of shame. The cross pours contempt on man and all his efforts, and is thus to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness (1 Cor. 1:23).

The apostle wished to press this upon the Galatians, as upon the Corinthians at another time for a different reason. He then puts in contrast the two principles of law and faith — this down to verse 14; and appeals to them as to the ground upon which they had received all their blessings from God. "This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (ver. 2). Failing people though they were, they had received the gift of the Spirit. It is important to distinguish between "the hearing of faith," and the reception of the Holy Ghost. A soul hears the gospel of salvation, and believes it; and thus is cleansed, and receives the remission of sins. This precedes the Spirit's seal. It is not denied that all that precedes is His work. This is unquestionable. A man never sorrows for sin, nor bends his ear to the gospel, and certainly never confides in the Lord Jesus for salvation, apart from the gracious work of the Holy Ghost. Such fruit has never been borne by the old man since the world began. The old man is corrupt according to the lusts of deceit, and never produces anything but what is hateful to God. His Spirit must work in conscience and heart, ere there can be anything that is well-pleasing in His sight. But while all this is true, the gift of the Spirit to dwell in the vessel is a totally distinct thing. It is as if a man first built a house, and then took up his abode in it. The Spirit is God's great gift to every Christian, and in this important respect those who believe during this present period of time are signally favoured of God. It is because of His infinite delight in the person and work of His beloved Son. When He took His seat on high, the Spirit descended, according to His word to His own ere He suffered.

Some in this day seem to regard the indwelling of the Spirit as a kind of attainment, and speak of it as though only the advanced and spiritual were thus favoured. But this is to ignore scripture. What was the practical state of the Corinthians when Paul wrote, "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" (1 Cor. 6:19). Let the whole epistle answer. And where were the Galatians when Paul wrote as in chapter 3? In every way both the Corinthians and Galatians were going on unsatisfactorily, yet they had received the Spirit. Every saint should earnestly heed the injunction, "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God"; but let none suppose that He is ever withdrawn; for in the very verse last quoted the apostle proceeds to say, "whereby ye are sealed to the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30).

The apostle then challenges the Galatians; on what principle had the Spirit been given? There could be but one answer. The sacred oil could not be poured on flesh (Ex. 30:32). Never since time began was such a gift conferred as the reward of human works, though often and regularly as the crown of God's grace under the gospel.

"Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain, if it be yet in vain?" (vers. 3, 4). If the works of the flesh never yet brought blessing to any, why should the Galatians turn to them? Were they really prepared to surrender all they had suffered for? Ordinances and legalism do not entail persecution and suffering. The natural man can enter into and appreciate them, and when those who bear the Lord's Name sink to this level, the world and themselves are agreed, and can walk together. How sorrowfully and long has this been true in Christendom! Had the apostle preached circumcision, and blended Judaism generally with the Christianity he taught, he would have been spared much, as he himself says, "Then is the offence of the cross ceased." But against all this he ever resolutely set his face, at all cost to himself, and other faithful men who stood with him.

Another question is now put, "He therefore that ministers to you the Spirit, and works miracles among you, does he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (ver. 5). He it was who had laboured among them, and wrought works of power to confirm the word. The gospel is "the ministration of the Spirit," as also of righteousness; not the law, which on the contrary is a ministration of death and condemnation (2 Cor. 3). Paul preached the gospel to them, not the law; as a result of "the hearing of faith," they had received the Spirit.

It is well to observe that the apostle distinguishes between the gift of the Spirit, and the working of miracles. They are often spoken of as though they were substantially the same thing. But they are distinct. The Holy Ghost is God's seal upon every believer, quite apart from mighty works, and abides today, spite of the church's declension and ruin. Miracles were but accompaniments of His presence, and were vouchsafed in early days in confirmation of the word preached (Heb. 2:4). These have ceased, the necessity for them having passed away — and perhaps one may add the fallen condition of the church not justifying their continuance or revival. But the Spirit remains with the church until the end.

The great point is that all had been wrought on the principle of faith, not works. The apostle now enforces the truth in another way. He brings forward Abraham, the root of circumcision, as also in Romans 4. On what principle did God account him righteous before Him? "Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness" (ver. 6). Even Abraham then, of whom all legalists boasted, knew nothing of works as a ground of blessing! God pronounced him righteous, not only before the law was given, but before circumcision was instituted. This was brought in later as "a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had being yet uncircumcised" (Rom. 4:11). Consequently, if they felt it an honour to range themselves under him, works must be abandoned, and faith take their place. "Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham" (ver. 7). Not "they which are circumcised," as they seemed to suppose, "but they which are of faith." Mere fleshly claims God entirely rejects; faith is looked for in all who would stand before Him. This is no new thing with God. He always had purposes of blessing for Gentiles apart from works and ordinances; indeed, He spoke of it to Abraham himself. "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel to Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham"(vers. 8, 9).

Thus early did God let out what was in His heart, however humbling to the seed of Abraham according to the flesh. They would have liked to confine blessing within their own circle, doling out to others as they thought well, and in entire subordination to themselves; but God had larger thoughts. Blessing is for all alike, the Gentile may be saved and justified without becoming a Jew, or submitting to ordinances; while those who contend for merely natural descent find themselves excluded altogether, and disowned of God, as we read, "He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly" (Rom. 2:28). The apostle merely speaks here of the ground of blessing, and does not state to the full what present blessing is. Our union with Christ as members of one body must be sought elsewhere; and in this the patriarch has no place; nevertheless he and we are blessed in one common ground before God. This is the point in Galatians; the apostle scarcely goes beyond it in this Epistle.

Galatians 3:10-14.

The apostle continues his contrast of the two principles — law and faith. Faith brings into blessing, the father of circumcision being witness; law only curses and condemns all who have to do with it. This is at this point very solemnly shewn. "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" (Gal. 3:10). None can escape the keen edge of this — all who are under the law are under a curse. Notice that the apostle does not say, "as many as break the law," but "as many as are of the works of the law." It is taken for granted that those who undertake to fulfil its obligations utterly fail; consequently as many as go on that principle are in this solemn state before God. The quotation here is from Deut. 27 and is very striking. There Moses instructs the people that they were to set up and plaster great stones when they had gone over Jordan, and write upon them all the words of the law, setting them up in mount Ebal. There we get that six tribes, Simeon, etc., were to stand upon Gerizim to bless the people, and six tribes upon mount Ebal to curse. The Levites were then to say with a loud voice to all the men of Israel, "Cursed," etc. But where are the blessings? Not to be found in the chapter at all. Many have sought to get over the difficulty by blending Deut. 28 with Deut. 27; but this is confusion. The following chapter proceeds on a different ground altogether, and speaks merely of governmental blessings and curses of a temporal character. The two portions are entirely distinct. Why then are the blessings from mount Gerizim not named? Because God well knew they would never be wanted. Persons under the law are necessarily under the curse, so complete is the ruin and depravity of flesh.

What a solemn position for the Galatians to place themselves in, after having believed in Christ! Some may say, 'Yes, but they were believers and therefore could take up the law and yet be exempt from the curse.' But this is false reasoning. The law cannot be taken as men think proper. The law takes us, if we have anything to say to it at all. It does not ask a man whether he is converted or not, it is not in its nature so to do; it takes the man as it finds him, and says, 'Do this and live,' with the solemn alternative of death and condemnation if there be failure. Therefore how serious for believers to place themselves in such a position! It is neither our means of justification before God, nor any means of sanctification. We were made dead to it by the body of Christ, and have therefore passed out of the sphere where it applies.

Moreover, law and faith cannot be blended, being entirely different principles. "But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for the just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith; but the man that does them shall live in them" (vers. 11, 12). Here we are carried back to Habakkuk 2:4). The prophet in his sorrow over the ruin of His people, and the (to him) mysterious dealings of Jehovah in not hastening deliverance, was told that "the just shall live by his faith." The word is used three times in the New Testament, and each time for a different purpose. If Romans 1 be consulted, it will be seen that the emphasis is on "just"; in Heb. 10 on the word "live"; in Gal. 3 on "faith". The law does not speak thus, but in a precisely opposite way — the man that does shall live. How vain then to try and mix the two principles! and yet this is done from one end of Christendom to the other. It is the exception to find souls that are not under law in one way or another. So little has the Epistle to the Galatians been heeded!

But the apostle could write with a grateful heart, "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree" (v. 13).

Notice carefully the "us." This is important in many of his Epistles. He and his Jewish fellow-believers had been under law, but had been brought out from hence by the Lord Jesus. The Galatians had never had to do with it, being Gentiles. Consequently they were not included in the "us." The same thing may be observed in chap. 4. "Even as we, when we were children, were in bondage." This means Jewish believers. As to Gentiles, "when ye knew not God, ye did service to them which by nature are no gods." This would not be true of Jews. Thus are both distinguished as to their former state. Look also at Col. 2:9, "blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us and took it out of the way nailing it to his cross." He does not include the Colossians in this statement, but shows the former condition of Jewish saints, and the deliverance through the work of Christ.

What inexpressible grace that Christ should take upon Him the curse of a broken law! Himself the beloved One of the Father, holy and without blemish in all His ways, yet going to such unutterable depths that souls might be delivered and blessed! The marvellous result is that the blessing of Abraham comes upon all who believe, whether Gentile or Jew. All were similarly needy and afar from God; the work of Christ is the foundation of blessing for all. "That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (ver. 14). Thus, as faith alone was the principle of blessing for Abraham, nothing else brings blessing to any. But the highest favours are bestowed where faith is, not the least being the gift of the Holy Ghost.

In the first fourteen verses of this chapter, the apostle has established very plainly two things; (1) that law never yet brought into blessing any who have been under it; (2) that the Holy Spirit was never given in connection with it.

Galatians 3:15-20.

Now another subject is treated — the relation of the law to the promises of God. Law having come, is it the true ground of blessing, to the setting aside of the promises made of old to Abraham? No one could question that the Gentiles have an interest in the promises, at least in those to which the apostle here refers, "Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannuls or adds thereto" (ver. 15). Such is the apostle's simple method of dealing with the matter. Would God do less than man? Even man holds to a confirmed covenant. When once the document is signed and sealed, the matter is closed, it cannot be set aside or added to. "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He says not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant that was confirmed before of God to Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect" (vers. 16, 17).

It is of moment to understand the particular promises to which the apostle here alludes. It is beyond question that some of the promises refer solely to the natural seed, but these are not before us in this place. The apostle is speaking of those which involve blessing for Gentiles. In Genesis 12 God said to Abraham, "In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." None can limit such a word as this. It shews how the heart of God went out to all even in earliest times, and that blessing for Gentiles was ever before His mind. But on what ground? Certainly not that of law, to which the foolish Galatians were vainly turning; for the law had no existence when God thus expressed himself to the father of the faithful. The promise was unconditional and depends on God alone for fulfilment. It was not drawn forth by anything in man, nor even in Abraham individually; it flowed solely from the grace of His heart.

Moreover He confirmed the word many years after, and who can annul a confirmed covenant? Observe carefully the occasion of its confirmation. It is found in Genesis 22. There we see Abraham offering up his only begotten son, and receiving him again from the dead (in figure); expressive type of the dead and risen Christ. This being all accomplished, the angel of Jehovah called to him out of heaven and said, "By myself have I sworn, says Jehovah … in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." This must not be mixed up with the word in the previous verse. There Abraham is told that his seed should be multiplied as the stars of heaven, and as the sand upon the seashore, and that they should possess the gate of their enemies. This clearly refers to Israel and includes no blessing for the Gentiles, but rather the reverse. This will be fully realized in a day yet to come, when Israel shall be led in triumph over all their foes, and all shall be subdued under them. But this is not what the apostle is reasoning upon in Galatians. His mind is fixed upon the precious word, "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." The seed here, he argues, is singular, not plural — it is Christ. What minute attention we should pay to scripture, if so much depends on a single letter! "He says not, And to seeds, as of many, but as of one, And to they seed, which is Christ." The omissions of the Spirit of God are as instructive as His words, to such as have eyes to see, and ears to hear.

The substance of the argument is this; that the promise concerning Gentile blessing was altogether unconditional on God's part, and that it is settled and sure in Christ dead and risen. Consequently, the law, which was given of God at Sinai four hundred and thirty years later, cannot disannul it, "For if the inheritance be of law, it is no more of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise" (ver. 18). The two principles are opposed in nature and character. If the inheritance is on the principle of works, it becomes a matter of debt, not of promise at all; whereas it is clear that God gave it to the patriarch by promise. If blessing really is through law then the promises of God are expunged. Man can never merit them.

Thus were the Galatians carried back to the beginning of things, that they might see the unreasonableness of the position they were taking up. Why turn to something given four centuries later than the original promise? Why rest their blessing on such precarious ground? Especially as they ought to know that law had never brought blessing to Israel; their scattered and servile condition being a standing warning to all. On the ground of law nothing is certain, such is the condition of man; but when God comes in, in the wonderful grace of His heart, the soul that rests in Him, as helpless and needy, finds everything sure and stable; the righteous ground being the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

Another question arises out of this. If law cannot bring souls into blessing, if it really only ruins all who place themselves under it, why was it given? A serious question surely. "Wherefore then serves the law? It was added because of transgression, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator" (ver. 19). The apostle always jealously vindicates the law, while contending for the liberty of the believer in Jesus. In Romans 3:31 he is careful to show that the principle of faith does not nullify the law, but that rather it is established, all its righteous sentence having been endured by Christ for us. In Romans 7:7, he shows that the law is not sin, that we turned away from it, but that it is holy and just and good. Here the same care may be observed. The law was God's perfect rule for man; but man is corrupt and bad, and therefore it can only condemn and curse him. It was added because, or for the sake of, transgressions. It makes manifest man's true state. Sin was in the world before the law was given, consequently none can impiously assert that law made man a sinner. It came by the way, as it were, after the promise and before the fulfilment of it, to demonstrate man's real state in the sight of God. Yet so blind are men as to their true condition, that they have taken up that which was intended to make plain their ruin, and have endeavoured to attain to righteousness and life by means of it. It is long since Paul wrote his Epistles to the Romans and to the Galatians, but the illusion is not dispelled to this hour.

Law cannot justify, nor can it sanctify. It is God's plumb-line making manifest man's crookedness; His mirror shewing up his vileness.

The promised Seed has come, Christ has died and is risen; why turn back to law? Why abandon a sure ground for one so unsafe and uncertain?

The apostle adds some interesting remarks here, as to the giving of the law. "It was ordained through angels." Stephen says, "who have received the law by the disposition of angels" (Acts 7:53).

God did not act immediately on the solemn day of Sinai. There were angels, and there was a mediator — Moses. What a contrast to Christianity! Through Christ's work, believers are brought to God, cleansed from all their sins, set down in His blessed presence in cloudless favour. We are loved by the Father with the same love wherewith He loves His Son, and are pronounced clean every whit, meet for the inheritance of the saints in the light. Nothing of this could be known and enjoyed under law. God spoke out of the thick darkness, His people quaked and trembled at the foot of the fiery mount; and angels and a mediator were between them and Himself.

The principle of promise does not need a mediator in this sense, there being but one party engaged; hence we read, "Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one" (ver. 20). The unity of God was the great fundamental truth that Israel was responsible to confess before the nations around, who had all departed into idolatry (Deut. 6:4). Thus God will make good His unconditional promises. Man may fail, but He never. We do not need a Moses and a host of angels between our souls and such a God.

Galatians 3:21-29.

Another difficulty is now gone into and settled by the apostle. If law, instead of helping man to attain to righteousness, only brings out transgression, is it against the promises of God? "Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid. For if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by law" (ver. 21). Life was set before those who were under the law, as vers. 12 shews; but it must be attained to by human righteousness. But the law was weak through the flesh. Flesh is so utterly antagonistic to God that it will not walk in His ways. Its whole course is marked by self-will and sin. Hence the law could not give life. It could only condemn and slay law-breakers. Therefore righteousness is not on the principle of law for any. "But the scripture has concluded (or, shut up) all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe" (ver. 22). Jew and Gentile were alike sinners before God, the one breaking the known commands of God; the other giving loose rein to his passions and lusts. All are brought in guilty, the matter being gone into fully in Romans 1 - 3. But now the promise is accomplished to all who believe. The Jew has not exclusive claims certainly, being in the same prison-house as the Gentiles, as it were, through guilt. Grace makes the promise good to all believers, whoever they may be; righteousness is imputed on the principle of faith in Jesus Christ.

Now before Christ came to accomplish this great work on behalf of man that all who believe in Him risen and glorified might be justified, believers, especially among the Jews were kept shut up in the school-house of the law. "But before faith came, we were kept under law, shut up to the faith which should afterwards be revealed" (ver. 23). They were waiting really until God brought in His better thing. Meanwhile they were kept under restraint and in separation from the heathen around them by the possession of the law. "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster" (vers. 24, 25). All this should appeal powerfully to the Galatians. Those who believed before their day had been under the hand of the legal pedagogue; Christianity having come they had been set free. And were Gentiles going after that which even Jews had left as suited only to an infantine condition? What utter misunderstanding of the mind of God! What serious surrender of the surpassingly excellent place that belongs to the Christian!

"For ye are all children (sons) of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (ver. 26). What an immensely superior place and relationship to that of an infant under law! Notice again in this place, the apostle's use of the pronouns: "We were kept under the law," "the law was our schoolmaster." He refers to himself and to his fellow Jewish saints, and does not include the brethren of the uncircumcision to whom he was writing. But when he speaks of privilege and blessing, these are as much for the believing Greek as for the Jew, hence he says "Ye." We are called to have part with Christ, to enter into His relationship with the Father, the power of which is made good in our souls by the Holy Ghost.

Baptism is here brought in, being a sign of our having part thus with the dead and risen Christ. "For as many of you as have been baptized to Christ have put on Christ" (ver. 27). It is not implied that some had not been baptized. No such idea must be inferred from this passage. In early days, when love was fresh and warm, and the commands of the Lord were more exactly obeyed, those who were used of God in the gospel of His Son baptized forthwith those who believed, or saw to the matter, that it was done by other approved men. J.N.D.'s reading may be preferred in this place, "for ye, as many as have been baptized to Christ, etc." The apostle means the whole body of those to whom he was writing. He shews them by the well-known ordinance of baptism, that they had part with Christ, as a rebuke to their hankering after a bygone state of things — the bondage of law.

In Christ all fleshly distinctions disappear. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (ver. 28). All these differences pertain to the old creation. All are brought into equal blessing and privilege in the risen Christ. It is a question of our place and portion in Him. Let us be careful to confine the passage thus. Ere this, it has been used to set aside or slight the relationships of life; and it has been brought forward as justifying the woman in taking the man's place in the services of God. But this is to utterly pervert the plain words of the apostle. All the relationships of life are sanctioned by God in Christianity as previously, and are all regulated in the Epistles of the New Testament. And it must not be forgotten that the woman's place was ordered and settled before the fall, and has not been touched by it, save that bitterness and sorrow have come in, as solemn results.

Here, however, we are considering, not our relative places on earth, but our position now before God in Christ. We have His place, through grace. "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, heirs according to the promise" (ver. 29). The apostle has been reasoning earlier that Christ is the true seed of Abraham. Here He brings us into the same place. We share it. All that is true of Him, as the risen and accepted Man is true of every one that believes. He has given us His standing and portion, and we are to inherit all things with Him in the coming day. Let us not lose sight of it, nor look to the things behind, as the Galatians to their hurt and sorrow.

Galatians 4:1-7

The apostle has said that we are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus. He now proceeds to open this out more fully and shows the glory of this wonderful relationship and position, with its results in the coming day, when Christ takes up His universal inheritance. In doing so, he puts in strong contrast the position of believers under law before Christ. They were heirs, undoubtedly, but their state was that of infancy.

"Now I say that the heir, so long as he is a child (infant), differs nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all, but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children (infants) were in bondage under the elements of the world" (ver. 1-3). This is a principle of great importance, and helps us to understand much that would otherwise be very difficult with regard to the saints of the Old Testament times.

An infant may be heir to vast possessions, but know little or nothing of it. Until the suited age is reached, he is under restriction and therefore little better than a servant. When the moment comes, he is put in possession of everything, and can enjoy to the full all the advantages of his position.

The Old Testament saints were in this condition of nonage. There was, of course, a positive link of relationship between their souls and God, but there was but little knowledge, or enjoyment of what was involved in it. They looked up confidingly to God and counted on Him in His own time to make good all His word. He promised salvation — they waited for it; He said that He would bring near His righteousness — they looked for it. But these things and many other blessings came not until Christ came and meanwhile believers were kept under the law and its ordinances as under a tutor.

Even those who followed the Lord in the days of His flesh were in this state also. In many respects they were very privileged men. Their eyes saw, and their ears heard things which many prophets and righteous men before them had greatly desired to see and hear (Matt. 13:16-17). Their position being in advance of those who had preceded them, the Lord (as we know) gave them a prayer suited to their then state (Matt. 6:9); a prayer decidedly in advance of the utterances of Old Testament saints, though as yet short of Christianity. Still they were under law. Redemption must be accomplished and Christ must take His place before God as risen ere the new place for man in Him could be unfolded.

We must be careful to keep before us that the apostle is describing the former condition of himself and his fellow-Jewish brethren. Gentiles were not thus under the law, their state was wholly different as we shall presently see. "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (vers. 4, 5). "The fulness of time" is an important expression here. The Seed was spoken of in Eden, but God suffered some 4,000 years to run their course ere He sent Him forth. Herein we may see the perfect wisdom of His ways. He would allow man to fully demonstrate his condition. He tried the creature in a variety of ways, under conscience and under law, sending prophets, etc. But what was the result? Man proved himself in every way an incurable creature — sin, transgression and enmity abounded. "In due time Christ died for the ungodly." "Once in the consummation of the ages has he appeared."

When thus sent forth, the Lord Jesus came of a woman, and came under the law. He took upon Him true humanity, real tangible flesh and blood, yet not sinful flesh, though in the likeness of it; in Him humanity was seen holy. Adam was formed innocent. Innocence is simplicity as regards good and evil; holiness implies a knowledge of both, but abhorrence of the one and love of the other. Such was Christ.

When we think of Him as "come" (not "made") "of a woman," we are not on peculiarly Jewish ground. Having linked Himself thus with man in grace, all may appropriate Him in faith, Gentile as well as Jew, for the need of their souls. But as "come under the law," Jewish believers are particularly before us. He came where they were, bowed beneath the curse of a broken law, that He might buy them out once for all from such a condition. What a contrast between the bondage of the law and the liberty of sonship! Yet how slow souls are to grasp it! One has only to read the Acts of the Apostles to see how very slow the Jerusalem brethren were to grasp their full deliverance and their new place in Christ risen. God bore with a mixed state of things till Jerusalem was destroyed.

It is to be remarked that Paul alone uses the word "son." In John's Gospel and Epistles the term uniformly is "children," and it is not a distinction without a difference. The latter expresses the tie of life and falls quite within John's line of things; "son" implies rather position. Thus believers now are placed in full possession of all the title-deeds of their heavenly position, and are admitted also into the Father's confidence, and know His mind and counsel through the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. If Rom. 8 be consulted, the two terms will be found alternating; we are both "children" and "sons."

Being sons, the Spirit is given, a privilege unknown until Christ was glorified. "And because ye are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (ver. 6). Mark the change from "we" to "ye." When it was a question of former bondage to law, the apostle did not include the Galatians; now when he speaks of present blessing and relationship, he says "ye," for it was as true of them as of himself and all the brethren with him. Thus all believers have received from God His great gift. The Spirit is here to instruct us as to our place and portion and to lead our souls into enjoyment of it all. He directs our thoughts and hearts to heaven, to the glory into which the Son has gone. Through His gracious ministry we know ourselves to be in Him there, blessed with all His blessings, in the enjoyment of His relationship to the Father.

Our proper cry now is "Abba, Father." This is very different from the cries of believers of previous dispensations. If the Psalms be examined, Jehovah will be found appealed to, to burn up their enemies, to drive them away like stubble; and the man is praised who would dash their little ones against the wall. Are these Christian sentiments? Assuredly not. Yet they are all inspired of God and proper in their place. The speakers were saints of God but under law; Christians are under grace, free from law, and know God as fully revealed in Christ.

Let us rightly divide the word of truth. To go back to the book of Psalms for proper Christian experience is to lose the savour of grace and to breathe legalism; it is to climb down from heaven to earth. If the Psalms are really understood, they yield a harvest of blessing to the soul; but if misunderstood and misapplied, as alas! is too often done, only loss can result.

Being sons and having the Spirit, we are no longer servants. "Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ" (ver. 7). This is incomparably higher than angels will ever know. They are servants, His ministers who do His pleasure, but they cannot say "Father," nor join in redemption's song. This was reserved for sinners, picked up by the sovereign grace of God. Men sometimes have sons who are not heirs, because they do not choose to give them a portion. But there are none such in the family of God. All will share with the Only-begotten; when He takes up His rights and administers all things, we shall be with Him as sharers through grace.

Galatians 4:8-18.

But what were the Galatians before the gospel of Christ was brought to them by Paul? Simply idolaters, as all the heathen around them. "Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service to them which by nature are no gods" (ver. 8). How contemptuously the apostle describes their old heathen deities! And how strongly he speaks of their votaries! Philosophers though many of them were, they knew not God. They might be well stored with the wisdom of this world, and be able to moralise, etc.; but Godward their hearts were hardened and their understandings darkened. They were totally ignorant of Him.

Here we see the importance of noticing Paul's use of the pronouns "we" and "ye," as already pointed out. All this could not be said of Paul and his fellow-Jews. They did not follow after heathen idolatry. They abhorred it and had the utmost contempt for it and its victims. Whatever the disgraceful proneness of the Jews before the Babylonish captivity, they kept clear of idolatry afterwards. True, the house was only empty, but neither occupied nor cleansed, though swept and garnished. Still they were not idolaters; the Gentiles around them were.

And what were the Galatians doing now? "But now, after ye have known God or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain" (vers. 9-11). This may sound strong language to some, but it is the faithful language of the Holy Spirit. They were not returning to their old gods, but were going after Judaism, with its legal requirements and ritual observances. And this is called a return to idolatry! Judaism was a system set up and once owned of God, being expressive of Christ in all its parts. Indeed, souls established in grace can turn back at all times to the books of Exodus, Leviticus, etc. and find real delight in all the Spirit's unfoldings of Christ that are found there in a typical way. Viewed from such a standpoint the old order was very far removed from idolatry. But Christ having come, the substance of all is here; heavenly realities have been brought in. Consequently a Judaism perpetuated by wilful and blinded men is now idolatry. It is sensuous religion, in which flesh can engage and delight itself. Things that spoke once of Christ are now weak and beggarly elements, and the whole atmosphere is one of bondage.

Solemn words for thousands in this day! Christendom has always been more or less infatuated with its law-keeping, feast-days, and ritual in general. But now the enemy of souls seems determined to darken in this way all the light which God of late years has shed through His word, to say nothing of the partial help graciously granted at the Reformation. Men are mad after weak and beggarly elements in every direction. Such things are placed between the soul and Christ, involving darkness and ruin. So gravely did the apostle regard this movement among the Galatians that he feared lest he had bestowed labour upon them in vain. What would he say of Christendom now?

It is well to compare this with his very different tone in Rom. 14. There he insists on toleration and contends that he that regards one day above another, regards it to the Lord. Here we may see, not contradiction, but the exceeding grace of the Holy Spirit. The Romans were evidently a mixed company. Some had been Jews, others had been Gentiles. He would not have the latter impatient and ungracious as to the prejudices of their brethren, but would have the weak dealt with considerately by those who judged themselves strong in the faith. Here in Galatians, it was no question of dealing patiently with souls who had been formerly under legal bondage and were slow to unlearn; but of recalling men who never had been in that position, and who were now hankering after it. The apostle does not deal with all alike; let us learn in the school of God to do the same.

Paul appeals now to his erring children by his own former relations with them. "Brethren, I beseech you, be as I [am], for I [am] as ye: ye have not injured me at all" (ver. 12). He was free from the law, and was thus where believing Gentiles properly were. They had done him no wrong in insinuating that he was no longer under law. He had learnt deliverance through the death and resurrection of Christ and gloried in it. These Galatians owed everything to him. "Ye know how through (in) infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel to you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus" (vers. 13, 14). His thorn in the flesh was a real trouble to the devoted apostle, and rendered him very despicable as a speaker in the eyes of some. But when the Spirit is at work, souls are occupied with the message, not with the messenger. Thus it had been in Galatia. Had he been an angel come straight from heaven, yea, had he been Christ Himself, they could not have received him more warmly and gratefully. His speech distilled as the dew, and those who had been poor blinded idolaters found peace and rest in Jesus through his instrumentality. Was it all a dream? "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 eyes, and have given them to me. Am I become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" (vers. 15, 16). Alas! how fickle is man! The same thing may be observed in the Corinthians. Paul had brought them abundance of blessing, but it took very little to alienate them seriously from him. He loved them greatly, but he was little loved in return.

As in Corinth, so in Galatia, there were those who sought deliberately to alienate the saints. Paul had his detractors in many directions. "They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them" (ver. 17). Such men sought influence among them that they might draw them after themselves away from him who had served them so well. Wretched party work! Alas! the spirit of it is not dead yet. They cared little that this would result in the Galatians losing the valuable ministry of the apostle. Self was their object, everything else was secondary.

Paul is cutting, yet the wounds of a friend are kind. "But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you" (ver. 18). How differently he could write to the Philippians! They were not only stedfast when he was among them, but much more in his absence (Phil. 2:12). They confided in the Lord, and were thus sustained; the Galatians lent an ear to the seducer and were turning aside.

Galatians 4:19-31.

How tender and touching the apostle's language now becomes! "My little children, of whom I travail in 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" (vers. 19, 20). He had the feelings both of mother and father towards the saints, as he lets the Thessalonians know (1 Thess. 2:7-12).

He goes beyond Moses here. The lawgiver, when smarting under the perverseness of his charge, was ready to repudiate them. He asked Jehovah why He had afflicted His servant, in laying the burden of the people upon him. "Have I conceived all this people? Have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say to me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father bears the sucking child, to the land which thou swarest to their fathers?" (Num. 11:12). But Paul was willing to travail with the Galatians a second time. He longed to be personally with them that he might see for himself their actual state, and the extent of the damage that had been done. Perhaps then he could change his voice, but at the moment of writing he had the gravest doubts of them.

The apostle now adopts another line. "Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?" (ver. 21). It is evident that the word "law" has two senses here slightly different from each other. The second use of the word refers to the Old Testament scriptures in general. The quotation that follows is from Genesis. He now illustrates the opposite principles of law and grace by the things that occurred in Abraham's household. "For it is written that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman, was born after the flesh; and he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which genders to bondage, which is Hagar," etc. (vers. 22-24). The principle of grace shines brightly in Sarah. When nature was proved impotent, God came in with His promise. It was received in faith, though there was long to wait ere the word was fulfilled. Her son, therefore, sets forth the seed of faith; those who inherit blessing. Hagar, on the other hand, speaks to us of the energy of the flesh, of bondage too. The apostle shows that this is where Jerusalem now is, whatever the boast of the Judaisers who had troubled the Galatians. "For this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answers to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children" (ver. 25). Yet the Jews boasted to the Lord that they were never in bondage to any (John 8:33)! To submit to Jerusalem now was to place themselves under servitude and to rob their souls of blessing.

What remarkable instruction the Spirit draws forth from so simple a matter as Abraham's two wives! Who would have seen in Sarah and Hagar the principles of law and grace, had not the Spirit of God drawn our attention thus? There is a mine of wealth in the pictures and types of the Old Testament to reward the patient and diligent soul.

To continue, Christians have nothing to do with Jerusalem, or the system of law and bondage connected with her. Christianity knows no centre on earth. Our metropolis is in heaven. "But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all" (more correctly "our mother") (ver. 26).

We now get a remarkable quotation from Isaiah. "For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not; for the desolate has many more children than she which has a husband" (ver. 27). Observe the place in which this is found in the writings of the prophet. In chapter 53 we have Israel bowing to the truth of the atonement, owning the once smitten One as having died for them. Then we hear the remarkable call quoted by the apostle in this epistle. The truth is, that Israel in the coming day will be astonished to learn what God has been doing during their long term of widowhood. They will find that countless children have been born to Abraham — true children of promise. These are reckoned, in a spiritual way, as Jerusalem's progeny. We do well to remember that the gospel started from Jerusalem and all its first preachers were of the Jewish stock. While Israel is estranged God is busy, and many are being brought in to taste the sweetness of His grace.

"Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children 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" (vers. 28, 29). Here another incident is dwelt upon. The Spirit of God saw in the mocking of Ishmael, an expression of the inveterate hatred of flesh to Spirit. Paul knew much of this. Had he been a preacher of circumcision, he would have been spared much. That would have put honour on the first man, and no persecution would have ensued for him. But he was a faithful minister of heavenly things, and had to endure the consequences in his person and circumstances. Others know this in measure.

Those who contend for law and ordinances have ever been bitter persecutors of the true seed of God. The Inquisition and many a burning pile, to say nothing of minor things, furnish painful proofs of it.

"Nevertheless, what says the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman" (ver. 30). This is Ishmael's lot, as we know. The Galatians must learn that this must be their portion also if they persisted on the ground of flesh and law. There can be no blessing for such, for God will not share His glory with another. Jerusalem was about to be made a solemn example. The Lord had warned His blinded people, but to no purpose. The heavenly light was resisted, flesh and ordinances were clung to; not submitting to God's righteousness, they were still going about to establish their own. The stroke was soon to fall; and Jerusalem was to be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. Solemn warning for Christendom, if men had eyes to see, and ears to hear! Soon will God's hand fall there also, let men boast never so loudly.

But Paul hoped better things of his beloved Galatians. "So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free" (ver. 31). Believers in Jesus are Sarah's children, heirs according to promise. Such will not be cast out, when the Ishmaels are rejected, but be preserved and blessed by God to the glory of His grace.

Galatians 5:1-5.

The apostle has made it perfectly plain that the believer in Jesus is not under law. We are not children of the bondmaid, but of the freewoman, as Isaac of old. What we are, divine grace has made us; it is no question of human effort at all. This is now followed up by urgent exhortation. "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (ver. 1). The Galatian movement, instead of being an advance, was retrogression. It was letting slip the blessedness into which God introduces all who have faith in His Son. We have not to make out a place for ourselves with God. He has made one for us on the basis of Christ's work; we have simply to abide there in full enjoyment.

The matter is then put very strongly. "Behold, I Paul say to you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing" (ver. 2). The Galatians never meant this. They thought that to engraft circumcision etc. into their Christianity was to improve it. But human works and divine grace cannot go together. We cannot be justified on two opposite principles. If we stand upon works, we are ruined men, whether Jews or Gentiles. There is no rest for the soul on such ground, and no confidence. As for Paul, he had abandoned fleshly efforts once for all as useless, and was standing before God in the righteousness which is of God by faith. Christ was all to him.

To adopt circumcision was to incur the whole responsibility of the law. "For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law (ver. 3). This may require a little explanation. It is well known that circumcision was given long before the law. The Lord Jesus remarked to the Jews that it was not of Moses, but of the fathers (John 7:22). The institution of it is found in Genesis 17. It is a sign that flesh can have no recognition with God, and that sentence of death must be passed upon it. Faith thus confessed the utter worthlessness of flesh, and availed itself of the provisions of God's grace. This is where Abraham stood, when at ninety-nine years of age, Jehovah renewed His promise as to the Seed, and gave him the sign of circumcision. On this ground he received blessing from God. It is solemn that such an ordinance should become a mere matter for fleshly glorying; but so it was in Israel. Flesh boasted, and took pride in the distinction. Had its meaning been understood, it would have been seen that God was pouring contempt by it on flesh and all its efforts.

In Moses' day the rite became incorporated with the law, hence the apostle's word in this epistle. It became an integral part of the legal system; therefore to take it up placed the soul under responsibility to do the whole law. This is very serious for souls who profess faith in Christ. The man that binds himself to meet the obligation of the law is a lost man, whoever he be. Law makes no distinctions, and shows no mercy.

The apostle becomes more vehement. "Christ is become of no effect to you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace" (ver. 4). Christ will not share His glory with another. The tendency of the Galatian movement is plainly shewn — it was abandonment of grace. They sought to amalgamate principles that were mutually destructive. "If by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace" (Rom. 11:6). We see in them how souls may be beguiled by Satan into consequences of which, at the beginning, they had no conception. They had no intention of giving up Christ, or of abandoning grace — but this was the tendency of what they were doing; nevertheless, thank God, all was not lost in their case. At heart they were true men, and he said, "I have confidence as to you in the Lord" (ver. 10).

All this is very serious for men in Christendom, if there were any eyes to see, and ears to hear. For what we see around us is not law pure and simple, nor grace in its abstract beauty, but a painful mixture of the two, to the marring of both. Paul trembled for souls in such a position; to him it was grave departure from the gospel of Christ.

The true christian state, in contrast, is then briefly described. "For we, through the Spirit, wait for the hope of righteousness by faith" (ver. 5). This is one of the few bright flashes in this epistle. Notice the words with care. We wait, not for righteousness, nor for the Spirit, but for the hope. Righteousness is ours now, we have been made the righteousness of God in Christ; and this can never be unsettled. The Spirit is God's gift to us now, for by Him we have been sealed for the day of redemption. All Christ's work being accomplished, and God having been glorified, the other Comforter has been sent from heaven, and is God's gift to every believer in the Lord Jesus. Then what wait we for? the hope. We do not get here what it is; it would not suit the character of the epistle. It is the Lord's coming to receive to Himself His own, to introduce us into the glory into which He has entered. To this, divine righteousness entitles us. Such a hope was never attached to legal righteousness. Suppose a man had kept the law in its entirety, would it have given him a claim to heavenly glory? All that God ever set before souls under law was to live long in the land which He had given them. But God is perfectly righteous in placing us in glory with His beloved Son. It is due to Him who suffered all for us and rose again.

For this we wait "by faith." The Spirit sustains our hearts by the way, ministering Christ to us, and speaking to us constantly of the glory into which He has gone. Unbelief may mock and deride, but faith rests confidently. God will yet make good His word, and take us all out of this scene to be for ever with the Lord.

Galatians 5:6-12.

Verse 6 aptly follows the concise statement of verse 5. If the one sets forth the Christian position in contrast with the bondage and gloom of the law, the other shows the moral walk which God looks for in every Christian. "For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision avails anything nor uncircumcision; but faith which works by love" (ver. 6). The apostle's language is very similar in chap. 6:15, and 1 Cor. 7:19. Considerable value attached of old to the solemn rite. It was then a great matter whether a man was circumcised or not. But, Christ having come, the reality of all has been brought in for those who believe; the shadow in this, as in everything else, fades away. True circumcision — death to flesh and separation to God — is found, for faith, in the cross of Christ, nowhere else (Col. 2:11-12). Possession of, or submission to, ordinances renders no one acceptable to God. He looks for the practical fruit of faith in all who bear the name of His Son. Faith works by love, and leads to the fulfilling of the commandments of God. Where this is seen, all else is of small account.

This point is largely developed by the apostle James. Some have fancied contradiction to Paul in the writings of this apostle; but there could not be a greater mistake. The fact is, both take up different aspects of the truth. Paul more generally dwells upon what concerns our God, which is not of works, but altogether of grace, founded on Christ dead and risen: James presents the other side, and speaks of our profession of faith before men. James says "Show me." Hence he lays down that to bid a needy brother or sister be warmed and filled without giving them the necessary means is profitless faith (James 2:14-17; compare 1 John 3:16-18). If there be no works, it is dead, being alone. Faith works by love. It expresses itself in love to God, and to all those who are begotten of Him. The Thessalonians are bright examples of this (1 Thess. 1:3; 4:8-10).

The Galatians were apparently lacking here, as in everything else. They were biting and devouring one another, and thus stood condemned by the very law in which they were now boasting. The law at least taught love to one's neighbour, though it did not, as the gospel, teach love to an enemy.

The apostle yearned over these misguided souls. "Ye did run well, who did hinder you, that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion comes not of him that calls you" (vers. 7, 8). It is a serious thing to put a stumbling block, or an occasion to fall, in the way of the Lord's little ones (Matt. 18:6). He is very jealous over His own that are in the world. Any service, however small, rendered to them for their furtherance and joy of faith He will abundantly reward in the approaching day; as on the other hand He will reckon assuredly with those who have checked them in their onward course. The bloom had departed from these souls in Galatia, their love had grown cold, and their faith had become enfeebled, results of the unholy efforts of the Judaising teachers among them. The movement was not of God. The work of His Spirit never leads to such deplorable results. He had called them in the grace of Christ: this persuasion had another source altogether. Paul describes it as "leaven," even as he speaks of the moral evil which was defiling the assembly at Corinth. "A little leaven leavens the whole lump" (ver. 9)

The Lord spoke of corrupt doctrine in this way. Thus He warned His disciples. "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees" (Matt. 16:6). They foolishly thought that He referred to their lack of loaves; but "He bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees" (Matt. 16:12). All leaven was to be purged out of the habitations of Israel when they kept their feasts to Jehovah, and none was permitted in any offering to Jehovah made by fire. It is a type of evil everywhere in the word of God. Neither moral nor doctrinal leaven must be sanctioned in the assembly of God; or its character is falsified, and its testimony is lost. We need to especially remind ourselves of this to-day. There is increasing corruption of doctrine in every direction; and the gravest possible teaching is often screened and palliated for party purposes. Corrupt doctrine is leaven, and does its deadly work among souls until dealt with in the fear of God.

We need not wonder at Paul's concern for the Galatians. They were his children in the faith, his work in the Lord; and he groaned to see them led astray by evil men. But his heart was with God about them; hence he had confidence. "I have confidence in you through the Lord that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubles you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be" (ver. 10). His language in this place may be compared with Gal. 4:20. There he lets out his deep anxiety in view of their state and proclivities. Here he looks up to God, and his heart had rest. Israel when viewed in the plains of Moab presented a sorry spectacle, sufficient to destroy the confidence of any servant of God; but, when viewed from "the tops of the rocks," their beauty, order, and justification could be proclaimed as seen by the eye of God (Num. 22–xxv.). This could not fail, being divinely secured through grace.

Are any surprised at the strength of the apostle's language concerning the troublers? It is not inconsistent with faith working by love. It is one of the characteristics of divine love that it rejoices not in iniquity, but with the truth (1 Cor. 13). Divine love is not always saying smooth things. It is ever righteously indignant when truth is trampled in the dust and error is exalted. This may sound strange in a latitudinarian day such as the present, when everything is accepted or tolerated. Paul did not hesitate to denounce evil workers, nor to set before them the righteous judgment of God.

How different his own path! Faithfully preaching Christ on every hand, and willingly accepting in his own person and circumstances all the consequences of what he preached. "And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? Then is the offence of the cross ceased" (ver. 11). There seem to have been insinuations that the apostle was not consistent in his preaching — that he set forth in one place what he condemned in another. But this was false. He was no mere time–server or man–pleaser. He declared all the truth of God, not keeping back anything that was profitable. He never adapted himself to men's carnal tastes, though he would vary the manner of his instructions according to the condition of souls. He nowhere preached circumcision. There was nothing in his ministry that flattered the first man. If so, would he have had to suffer? Would Jews and Gentiles in every quarter, particularly the former, have heaped upon him every kind of indignity if he preached ordinances? Assuredly not; flesh loves them too well. The scandal of the cross would then be at an end, and the servant of Christ would have an easy path through this world.

This is precisely what has happened in Christendom. Ordinances have supplanted the true grace of God; a humanly appointed priesthood has taken the place of Christ and the Spirit; and the supporters and propagators of the system are in ease and honour in the world. Flesh has no quarrel with such men, but appreciates them. Persecution in such circumstances is impossible.

But the offence of the cross has not ceased. Let any set forth the full grace of God in the gospel, to the thrusting aside of ordinances and fleshly efforts in general; let any really exalt Christ and His work, in contrast with the first man; and it will soon be proved. What flesh loved in Paul's day, it loves still; and what it hated then, it hates as fiercely as ever. Flesh never changes in its antagonism to God, and in its dislike to His free grace revealed in Christ. The apostle concludes this part of his subject with the indignant exclamation. "I would they would even cut themselves off which would trouble you" (ver. 12).

Galatians 5:13-18.

Now we have a different phase of matter brought before us. Hitherto the apostle has been insisting on the absolute freedom of the believer from the law in connection with his relationship to God; now he shows that it is in no way the rule of the Christian's practical life and walk. Law has no place with the believer either for justification or for sanctification. This is of very great importance to rightly apprehend. Many earnest souls are confused and in error here. Not a few in christendom would strongly repudiate (and very rightly) the law as a means of justification before God, asserting that faith in Christ and His accomplished work can alone avail. But the same persons, in the majority of cases, quite believe that the Christian should take up the law as a rule of godliness. This is a grave mistake, and lowering in its results. Law was given to men in the flesh to cut flesh, but the believer is not in the flesh (though the flesh be in him) but in the Spirit. Heavenly men need a different and higher standard; and this we shall find in the passage now before us.

"For brethren ye have been called to liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another" (vers. 13-15). The Galatians sought power against the flesh to keep it down, and had turned to the law for it. But with what success? What was the practical outcome? Such a low and contentious condition that the very law condemned them, for if it did not teach men to serve one another in love as Christ, the law said at least "thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." This the Galatians were evidently not doing, but the opposite; hence the apostle's earnest word of warning. As Rom. 7 shows, law instead of subduing flesh provokes it and draws out all its badness. The law is thus the strength of sin, not of holiness, though in itself holy and just and good (1 Cor. 15:5-6; Rom. 7:7-13).

Where then could the Galatians, where can the Christian now, find power? "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other, that ye may not do the things that ye would" (vers. 16, 17). Here is the secret of power. The believer now receives from God the gift of the Holy Ghost. This is one of the great characteristic blessings of Christianity, the value and importance of which no one can duly estimate. And having given the Spirit to us, God looks to us to walk in the Spirit. This is to allow Him to dwell in us ungrieved that He may be free to act and carry on His gracious work of conforming us to the image of Christ in glory. If this is true of us, if we not only live in the Spirit but walk in the Spirit, flesh does not act, its lusts are not fulfilled.

It is of moment to see that the apostle regards both as existing within the believer. It is quite a mistaken notion that flesh has been removed, though some, alas! have been betrayed into this fallacy. It is equally false that it is in any way improved. It is incurably and hopelessly evil, and abides until the change at the Lord's return. Its natural tendencies remain unaltered. It desires even to gain power over the believer and to lead him into sin and folly, as the Spirit, on the other hand, desires to lead in the ways of holiness and truth. But faith holds flesh for dead, and refuses to give it sanction, or to lend an ear to its suggestion; and for this the indwelling Spirit is divine power.

In ver. 17 read "may not" instead of "cannot." This mistaken reading perverts entirely the meaning of the passage. Many suppose the teaching in this place to be substantially the same as in Rom. 7,* whereas in fact it is the direct opposite. In Rom. 7 we have the struggles of a quickened soul who has no knowledge of deliverance, and there "cannot" is quite correct. When good is desired, evil is found to be present and all-powerful. But this is not the teaching of Gal. 5. Here the apostle is showing the power which the believer really possesses. We have the Holy Spirit of God, and He acts within us in order that we may not do the things that we would.

{*Indeed, most English Bibles give a reference from this passage to Rom. 7:15-19.}

This removes all necessity for the law as regards those who are in Christ Jesus. "But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law (ver. 18)." It is impossible to be under the power of two principles. We do not need two guides at one time. It is characteristic of the believer that he is led of the Spirit; to such the law has nothing to say. It is thus altogether unintelligent to place believers under law in any shape. Those who do so understand neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. It was not made for the righteous but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane (1 Tim. 1:7-10). God holds the believer righteous through the death and resurrection of Christ. All such have the Spirit as power, and Christ as life and object.

Galatians 5:19-26.

The works of the flesh are solemnly and fully enumerated, and in such a manner as to mark the holy hand of the Spirit of God. "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are [these; adultery], fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envying, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (v. 19-21). Who but the Spirit of God would have given the unholy list thus? Who but He would have placed wrath, variance, etc. in the same category with such notoriously vile offences as fornication, murders, and drunkenness? Man would have classified them, arranging them in the order in which they appeared heinous in his sight. Offences that are lesser, in human judgment, would have been placed in one class, and bolder sins in another. But not so the Holy Spirit. He traces all to the one root. Whether it be murder or strife, sect-making (for such is the meaning of "heresies"), or emulations (which may even happen among brethren), all comes from the flesh, which is incurably evil, whether in the saint or the unregenerate sinner. In like manner the Lord Jesus exposed the heart of man to His disciples in Matt. 15:19. All evil flows thence. The spring being impure, all that flows from it is offensive to God.

Let every believer watch himself with earnest godly care. Flesh must be treated as a dead and judged thing, and then all is well; but if it be allowed to work, though but for a moment, any evil may follow. Those who persist in an evil course the apostle repudiates altogether here. He presses it in this place on the Galatians, as elsewhere on the Ephesians (Eph. 5:5), that those also who live thus shall not inherit God's kingdom. The truest believer may, through unwatchfulness, fall into the gravest sins; but such cannot be said to live in them — they do not characterise their lives. The believer, through the action of the Spirit of God on his conscience, owns and confesses his sin, and gets forgiveness and cleansing. Such statements are not intended to encourage doubts in the hearts of saints, but to test and sift profession. There is much of it in this day. On every hand there is boastful profession of Christianity; but in how many cases is the fruit lacking which God looks for! 2 Tim. 3:1-5 may well be pondered in this connection.

What a contrast is the Spirit's fruit! "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law" (vers. 22-23). These are not called "works" implying effort; but fruit, the natural result of life. The Holy Spirit is a living power in the Christian: here we have the blessed and varied result of His operations. "Love" is God's own nature and is rightly placed first. Everything else pales before this. It is that which will abide when not only prophecies, tongues, and knowledge are no more, but when faith and hope have given place to sight and realisation (1 Cor. 13:8-13). "Joy" and "peace" follow naturally. As our souls abide in the divine nature, so we are happy and calm. Things that would otherwise disturb and ruffle our hearts pass by and leave us quite unmoved. Then long-suffering, gentleness, and goodness in all our dealings with others fall into their blessed place. Wrongs are quietly borne, vindictiveness is not allowed; but on the contrary the grace which shone out always in the Perfect One is displayed to His glory. For evil, positive goodness is shown, which is ever God's way. Turning inwards again, "faith, meekness and temperance" develop themselves, enabling us to walk trustfully with God, imparting that lowly brokenness of spirit which God values, and enabling us to keep all our members well under control. What can the law say to such? It was assuredly never made for men walking in the Spirit as thus.

The foundation principle of a holy walk is next set forth. "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts" (ver. 24). It is not said that we should do so, as is so commonly supposed, but that we have done so. Faith judges with God; it treats flesh as dead, and gives no quarter in consequence to any of its desires. Many do not understand this. They are aware of the existence within them of the evil principle, and are earnestly endeavouring to cope with it, in order to render it nugatory. But such find they have undertaken an impossible task, and are at times disposed to sit down in despair. The truth is, God has dealt with the flesh in the cross of Christ. It is proper christian knowledge to say "knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed [annulled] that henceforth we should not serve sin" (Rom. 6:6). Thus faith accepts in simplicity what God has done, and then victory comes.

The apostle continues, "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another" (vers. 25, 26). Every believer lives in the Spirit, He being the source of the new life that he has received; to walk in the Spirit is to accept practically His gracious leadership and control in all the details of life down here. From this the Galatians had slipped, through the pernicious teaching to which they had listened: hence the apostle's grave warning and rebuke in the words which conclude the chapter.

Gal. 6:3-10.

1898 118 The law of Christ tends to keep the soul subdued and humble in contrast with Moses' law with which the Galatians were so enamoured. The sense of divine grace is then deep and real in the soul, and preserves from inflation, to which the flesh is ever prone. Hence the apostle says, "For if a man think himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself" (ver. 3). Time was when Paul thought himself to be something. Recall his list of legal attainments and advantages as given in Phil. 3:5-6. He then thought himself the best of men and gloried in flesh to the utmost. But how vast the change when the light of God was let into his soul! How complete the transformation after his memorable meeting with the glorified Christ! The best of men discovered himself to be the chief of sinners; for whom nothing but sovereign grace and mercy could avail. "I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 1:12-16). Never afterwards did he "think himself to be something." The proud haughty Pharisee became the lowliest of men, the closest possible follower of a rejected and suffering Lord. Only grace can accomplish this. Law tends to puff up. It flatters flesh, or at least flesh uses it in this way. Man with the law in his hand thinks himself competent to worship God and to serve Him.

With this humility and brokenness, the apostle connects heart-searching and examination of one's ways. "But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden" (Gal. 6:4-5). Gal. 6:5 in no way contradicts Gal. 6:2. In the earlier verse it is a question of sympathy with one another's infirmities. We are to be helpers of each other, bearing one another's burdens (bare). Here it is responsibility where each must stand alone; "every man shall bear his own burden" (phortion). Responsibility cannot be shifted to other shoulders; each individual saint will have to render his own account to God. Solemn consideration! We are apt to lose sight of the judgment-seat of Christ where all that we have done in the body will be gone into by the Lord. But to overlook it is dangerous. Grace does not do away with responsibility, but rather deepens it.

The point before the mind of the Spirit here is that every one should look to his own ways, that in the coming day he may have rejoicing as to himself. The word is needful and wholesome beyond all doubt. The heart is so treacherous that there is always a tendency to be occupied with the ways and failings of others rather than with our own. It is perfectly possible to complain loudly of a mote in the eye of another and be quite unconscious that a beam resides in one's own. A great advantage is thus given to the enemy, which he is never slow to avail himself of, to the sorrow and shame of the saints and above all to the Lord's dishonour. Let us esteem such ways, beloved brethren. While not overlooking evil in others, let us correct our own ways, remembering that each has to answer to the Lord for himself. Beware of mounting the judgment-seat; it is the prerogative of the Lord Jesus Christ.

A word as to Heb. 13:17 may be useful here. There the apostle bids the saints to obey their leaders; "for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy and not grief: for that is unprofitable for you." This must not be misunderstood. The verse by no means teaches that spiritual guides are responsible for the souls placed under their care. Such an idea may suit priestly pretenders, but not the Spirit of God. Each man stands on his own responsibility to God, as we have seen. But all who serve among the Lord's saints are accountable to Him for their behaviour; and this is what the apostle has before him in Heb. 13:17. The Lord will enquire by-and-by as to whether the diseased have been strengthened, and the broken ones healed. On the other hand, let those cared for look well to it that they cause no unnecessary grief to such as love and care for them for the Lord's sake.

To return to our chapter, we next meet with a word as to the temporal support of labourers. "Let him that is taught in the word communicate to him that teaches in all good things" (Gal. 6:6). If spiritual things are freely sown, it ought not to be a great matter if the temporal is reaped in return. God looks for this from His own. It is not only the due of His servants, but His due, which He never foregoes, though all is on the ground of grace. The apostle's exhortation in this place is purposely general, not local. Suppose in a given place, the saints are served by those who need no return from them, are they free from all responsibility as before the Lord? Assuredly not. The church of God is one, and the labourers are one; in such a case the heart must find vent for its bounty elsewhere. This is an important principle for all to remember. A harvest of blessing will always be reaped where it is acted upon in faith and love.

1898 136 God looks to see the fruit of the Spirit developed in His own in every way. He is thus glorified in His saints, while theirs is the blessing and profit of it.

The apostle goes on to show that saints in their walk on the earth are as subject to the general principles of the government of God as any. "Be not deceived: God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap. For he that sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting" (vers. 7, 8). Our souls are apt to forget this, and to act as if because subjects of grace, we are free from responsibility. In no wise. Grace can never be forfeited: every believer will infallibly be carried safely through the wilderness and presented in glory; but on the road the unchangeable principles of God's government touch us even as others. Flesh is not to be indulged: they that are Christ's have crucified it with its passions and lusts. It is to be treated as an evil thing — neither place nor quarter is to be given to it. This is our solemn responsibility all the way along.

Alas! how many genuine saints have reaped a bitter harvest through the folly of their ways! Lot is a solemn instance in the Old Testament. His harvest was unquestionably corruption in many respects, yet was he "righteous" (2 Peter 2:7-8). Life everlasting is the blessed crown of the life of the Christian, pursued in the power of the Spirit. Eternal life is viewed here as a future thing rather than as a present possession. The latter is more John's line. In his Gospel and Epistles we are assured again and again that eternal life is ours now in Christ. Paul presents to us the other side of the matter. We shall find it in all its fulness and blessedness, without aught to hinder, in the presence of the Lord in glory.

This should encourage the heart of the believer in the midst of all the trials of the present scene. Often now the foot has to be placed on the neck of some cherished object; often has the knife to be applied to what our poor hearts naturally cling to; but the path will end presently in bliss and glory, where the divine life in us can develope itself without alloy. Thus the apostle exhorts; "and let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not" (Gal. 6:9). The hands must not be allowed to hang down, however earnestly the heart may suggest it; every good work must be steadily pursued until the Lord Jesus comes. The "due season" is not far distant; then joy will crown the servant's toil. We need especially to remind each other of this now. Latter-day service for Christ is often deeply discouraging in many respects, and the worker is apt to faint on the road or give up in despair. Courage, brethren! the Lord is at hand.

The apostle proceeds to define the sphere in which we should do good, with the order in which the matter should be considered. "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to them who are of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10). No doubt temporal good is to the front in the exhortation of this place; but we learn nevertheless an important principle as to all service. The church of God has the first claim. It is the circle of Christ's affections and interest in the earth; and it should be our joy and privilege to serve Him in it in any possible way.

We need to be reminded of this very much in this day. There is a growing tendency in many quarters to make everything of evangelisation to the neglect and even disparagement of service amongst Christ's members. This will not do. It misses the mind of God. No doubt there are fewer difficulties in the way of evangelistic labour, and results are apparently larger; but the church of God is the first circle with God nevertheless. It should be so with us. How great the honour to be allowed of God to do good to His own! How highly is it prized in heaven, and with what joy will it be recognised and rewarded at the judgment-seat of Christ!

But our service must not stop short here; "all men" have a claim upon us for what grace has entrusted to our care. The heart of God takes in all, seeking their salvation and blessing. Herein grace differs from law, as we have already observed while examining this epistle. Law addressed one nation only, demanding righteousness from them (alas! finding none); grace on the other hand addresses all alike, offering salvation full and free to all who believe in Jesus. Such is to be the line of our service in this dark scene; first the household of faith, then, as we may be enabled, "all men."