The contrast between the observance of the law of Moses and
belief in the gospel in Christ is so stark. The law bound men and women. Christ
frees men and women. They should have known that the law was a burden that they
had not been able to bear. This had been the conclusion at the "Jerusalem
council" (Acts 15:10).
IT IS FOR FREEDOM THAT CHRIST HAS SET US FREE: "No man
is free who is not master of himself" (Epictetus, 1-2nd cent Stoic, Rome).
"The basic test of freedom is less in what we are free to do
than in what we are free not to do" (E Hoffer).
"There are two freedoms: the false where one is free to do
what he likes, and the true where one is free to do what he ought."
"Scripture is a never-failing treasury filled with boundless
stores of grace. It is the bank of heaven; you may draw from it as much as you
please, without let or hindrance. Come in faith and you are welcome to all
covenant blessings. There is not a promise in the Word which shall be withheld.
In the depths of tribulations let this freedom comfort you; amidst waves of
distress let it cheer you; when sorrows surround thee let it be thy solace. This
is thy Father's love-token; thou art free to it at all times. Thou art also free
to the throne of grace. It is the believer's privilege to have access at all
times to His heavenly Father. Whatever our desires, our difficulties, our wants,
we are at liberty to spread all before Him. It matters not how much we may have
sinned, we may ask and expect pardon. It signifies nothing how poor we are; we
may plead His promise that He will provide all things needful. We have
permission to approach His throne at all times -- in midnight's darkest hour, or
in noontide's most burning heat. Thou art free to all that is treasured up in
Christ -- wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. It matters not
what thy need is, for there is fulness of supply in Christ, and it is there for
thee. O what a 'freedom' is thine! freedom from condemnation, freedom to the
promises, freedom to the throne of grace" (CHS).
FAITH EXPRESSING ITSELF THROUGH LOVE: "Working for God
is not enough, even though it is intense, compulsive and total. That indeed is
important, but two other things are even more important: love of God, and
holiness of life. There can be a dead work without love (though it may give a
wonderful appearance of 'life'). But there cannot be the true required Love
without both Holiness and Work. 'Faith that works by Love' is the golden key to
THE OFFENSE OF THE CROSS: The shame for a Jew that his
Messiah was crucified, and that salvation by faith requires submission to the
curse of the Law (Gal 3:13).
AND EMASCULATE THEMSELVES: The "cutting off" [ie, KJV]
here has absolutely no relevance as a popular catch-phrase to justify wholesale
excommunication. In the first place, Paul displays a marked reluctance to be
more drastic in action than necessary: "I would ...." is about as far from a
peremptory command as can be imagined. Coupled with v 10 -- "The one who is
throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty" -- this passages presents the
picture of the inspired apostle as being far from in a hurry to apply the
surgical knife -- and this to one person! Where the rest are concerned, there is
no hint of drastic discipline. What would Paul say if he were to view the
drastic and unwarranted "cutting off" from fellowship performed by some
"purists" today? Might he not say something like this?: 'I would they would
completely cut off everyone, and then the rest of us might have some peace for
the upbuilding of the ecclesias.'
But all of this is really beside the point, for this verse has
a very specialized meaning. The word "cut off" is apokopto, which means "to cut
away"; it is so used of members of the body: "If thy hand offend thee, cut it
off" (Mar 9:43,45); "Then Peter.... cut off his right ear" (Joh 18:10,26). In
Gal 5:12 the verb is in the middle voice, thus signifying one of two things:
either (a) to cut oneself off, metaphorically, from the "body" of Christ, or (b)
literally to mutilate one's own body, by cutting off one's members. The second
of these two possibilities is favored by numerous versions: "I wish those who
unsettle you would mutilate themselves" (RSV). "I would they would even mutilate
themselves" (RV margin).
"As for these agitators, they had better go all the way and
make eunuchs of themselves!" (NEB). Paul, in Gal, has been denouncing those who
would make circumcision a "test of fellowship" (Gal 5:1-4,11).
Why do they not, says Paul, since they have such faith in the
knife, practice the complete mutilation which was common among the devotees of
Cybele? In modern times this interpretation has been rejected on the grounds of
coarseness, but if we remember that in turning to Judaism the Galatians were
virtually turning back in principle to the rite of the nature worship of their
pagan days....then Paul's words practically mean that if the Judaizer were
leading them back, then let him consistently go the whole way and in mutilation
of self exhibit in symbol the destruction of self in the complete sense" (CGal
So Paul here is not referring to withdrawal of fellowship, but
to castration! (If the idea still seems far-fetched, note that an early
Christian "bishop", Origen, in an excess of zeal, did this very thing!) An angry
Paul, reserving his harshest language for those who would add new criteria for
fellowship, is deriding the negative and destructive policy of "salvation by
cutting-off" in the strongest possible terms. We do well to remind ourselves
that the philosophy of "salvation by separation", in one form or another, has
been practiced throughout the ages. It is not newly sprung up in modern
Believers are called to: liberty (Gal 5:13); blessing (1Pe
3:9); peace (1Co 7:15); and glory (2Pe 1:3).
SERVE ONE ANOTHER IN LOVE: "To find our life, we must
lose it. To exalt ourselves, we must abase ourselves. To rule, we must serve. To
conquer, we must yield. To attain our own welfare, we must seek that of others.
Everything is the reverse of the flesh's way and the world's conceptions. If we
pursue happiness and pleasure and satisfaction directly and for their own sake,
they mockingly flee from us, and, like the will-of-the-wisp, lead us at last to
a bottomless bog. They can be found only where God's infinite wisdom and love
has carefully and wonderfully placed them: in sacrifice and service and
self-forgetfulness. Forget yourself in outgoing service and love, and you'll be
happy. Dwell on yourself in in-turned, self-seeking and self-centeredness, and
you'll be miserable" (GVG).
"There is beautiful liberty [cp Gal 5:1] in this injunction --
liberty to serve, and thus fulfil the law of Christ. It includes all the law
under which we live, for Paul says that all the law is fulfilled in loving one's
neighbour as one's self; and again: 'Bear ye one another's burdens, and so
fulfil the law of Christ' " (GbS 69).
Don't be a "Cannibal Christian"!
"Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To
lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over
your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the
last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving
back -- in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that
what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you"
(Frederick Buechner, "Wishful Thinking, Transformed by Thorns" 117).
The outward sign of circumcision symbolized a "cutting off" of
lusts of the flesh. But the symbol was borne by many who made no effort to
translate it into action. Cp Rom 2:25-29; CGal 128.
THEY ARE IN CONFLICT WITH EACH OTHER: "We must be
constantly aware of flesh and spirit, and of the death and life distinction
between them. Whatever we do naturally and thoughtlessly is of the flesh, and is
not pleasing to God, even though it may be 'good' in itself -- for it is not of
faith, nor done unto Him. All we do must be done unto Him, for spiritual
purposes, and in some way contributing to His glory, and His people's eternal
Vv 19,20: Acts/works -- plural. But vv 22,23: fruit --
singular, though multitudinous.
Vv 22,23: Love is THE 'fruit' of the Spirit. It is preeminent
among Christian virtues (1Co 13). It is the perfect fulfillment of the Law (Mat
22:37,39). Scripturally understood, it is not just an "emotion" or a "feeling";
it is... an action! Therefore, love is the basis of every other aspect of
JOY is love exalted.
PEACE is love in repose.
PATIENCE is love enduring.
KINDNESS is love in society.
GOODNESS is love in action.
FAITHFULNESS is love overcoming.
GENTLENESS is love in submission.
SELF-CONTROL is love under discipline.
" 'The fruit of the Spirit is love' -- and if you can receive
it, these [the other attributes of the Spirit] are the flavours, textures,
colours: different and detectable but all part of the one fruit. Remember one
thing: fruit is not magic. It does not appear overnight: growth is real but
slow. Protection and cultivation are vital. Setbacks there will be. Waiting and
working are not always contradictory. Let us never lose heart. It is, after all,
the fruit of the Spirit. Fruit is God-created, not man-made" (GD).
JOY: "Once before we stressed that joy is not one
blinding flash of ecstatic happiness which comes suddenly and then is gone. It
is a constant force of shared delight which is undisturbed by circumstances,
good or bad; in a sense detached from the undulation of life but always
sensitive to the needs they create. That means that joy cannot be enjoyed in
isolation. Joy cannot be hoarded. When joy is gathered it is gathered in order
to be spread. It is not drinking at the stream to quench our thirst alone; it is
drinking for the common wealth; it is taking the water into the desert for
thirsty souls; it is putting a little sweetness into the drabness of somebody's
day, a little companionship into somebody's loneliness. Joy active is moved by
the impetus of love for some other soul... Whichever way you look at it, joy is
part of the fruit of the spirit. Fruit is not a flash-in-the-pan thing. It is
permanent, solid, substantial. The growth is real but often imperceptible.
Slowness is not failure. It is there on dull days as well as sunshine days. If
joy sings it never tires. There is a song for June and a song for January. The
word for joy is a common word. It is not a red-letter word, flaming with
passion. It means something steady, quiet, divinely wonderful, like fruit. It
means gladness, common delight -- a sense of quiet assurance" (GD).
PEACE: "We have referred before to the peace of the
tranquil pond covered with weed. But that peace of stagnation is not the peace
which is love mastered. True Biblical peace is the union of conflicting forces,
concord where otherwise there might be strife. It is not the burying of the
hatchet for the sake of quietness. Hatchets can be dug up and too often they
are. Peace through love means ending strife and bringing harmony because of love
for those who are estranged, making peace for love of him who said, 'Blessed are
the peacemakers.' Peace is the ministry of healing. It is not always easy, but
let us know that at its head there is a file leader and he is called 'the Prince
of Peace' " (GD).
PATIENCE: "Longsuffering" in KJV. "It is an
old-fashioned word. A more modern equivalent might be 'long temperedness.' It is
having infinite patience. Some people say, 'I am quick tempered; I cannot help
it.' The writer has sympathy, but knows we must try to help it. It calls us to
resist the temptation, so often faced, when we say, 'I have put up with this
long enough...' The only force which will make short-tempered people into
long-sufferers is love. How often have we heard it! We say, 'Why she puts up
with it I cannot tell.' The explanation may be that she is long-suffering. Do
not be too harsh with her. Remember, 'Love suffers long and then speaks its
mind'? That must be a different Bible. Remember rather, 'Love suffereth long and
is kind.' Hear it again, 'Love beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth
all things, endureth all things': not some things, but all things. This is long
KINDNESS: "Vine... says that this word has the idea of
goodness of heart with an especial reference to service. It is more than having
kind thoughts -- it is a very practical word. James would have liked it. He knew
that blankets are better than talk. It is not doing great things occasionally;
it is doing small things regularly, and not minding that they seem so small. It
is having a keen-eyed but unobtrusive capacity to discern the need and to meet
it lovingly. Fame and reward have no place here. Put simply, kindness is love
GOODNESS: "The writer remembers reading once that
children are good, adults are righteous. That may be, but by this word adults
are called to be good as well. It is a divine word. God said to Moses, 'I will
let all my goodness pass before thee', and it revealed the glory of the Lord. It
means doing good things and refusing to do bad things. Joseph is a good example:
'How can I do this great evil and sin against God?' It is love of that which is
good and hatred of that which is evil; doing good for the love of God and for
the love of those who love you; refusing evil because it may break somebody's
heart. Goodness in order to be respectable is one thing -- goodness for love's
sake is another. David once came to Jerusalem and said: 'Are there any here of
the house of Saul whom I may love for Jonathan's sake?' And they brought to him
poor Mephibosheth, who was lame in both feet and lived in obscurity. David set
him at the royal table and cared for him. That is goodness: doing good for
love's sake" (GD).
FAITHFULNESS: "This has to do with integrity. It is
another word for fidelity. It means being faithful to your word: true to your
accepted responsibility, whether in business, in marriage, in the ecclesia. It
outlaws the thought of shirking or shedding your duty, be the reason ever so
plausible. It means being very careful about your promises and about your
relationship with others. It means being ready to give up your own special
preferences, your own scruples, your own strong opinions, if they may hinder
your brother or sister or cause them to sin. It means loyalty to the Truth, even
if it means a diminution of your rights, an interference with your progress,
risking your reputation. It will garrison a disciple against the possibility of
filling his mouth with other people's faults when he ought to ponder his own.
How on earth will people behave faithfully in the face of these temptations? --
only through love, love of God, love of the truth, love of God's other children"
GENTLENESS: See Lesson, Gentleness.
"Meekness" in KJV: "A speaker once said that to be meek you
have to be unconscious. He was probably right. Conscious humility tends to be
contrived. But it is not easy. Some virtues can be practised, but not meekness.
As the man said, it is unconscious. Doing good sometimes makes people puffed up.
The best advice seems to be to do your work for Christ faithfully and try not to
think about yourself. Do not look for opportunities to do great things -- you
may have to wait half a lifetime. Do the commonplace well and faithfully. Do not
mind that it seems so commonplace. There is nothing menial in the service of the
King. The NT writers proceed in the belief that the driving force for our labour
of love is the love of the Redeemer -- understood and realised. They say, 'The
love of Christ constraineth us.' If we really believe it we are not so likely to
get puffed up. We may even become meek" (GD).
SELF-CONTROL: "Temperance" in KJV: "This describes, or
has come to describe, a special kind of abstinence: abstinence from intoxicating
liquor. The problem is that the absolute nature of teetotalism may in a way be
intemperate. Be that as it may, the real meaning of temperance in this passage
is self-control. This is a hard thing to achieve if you are prompted by the
wrong motives. Control through fear is a struggle which is likely to end in
failure. Control for the sake of respectability or through anxiety to avoid
detection is at best fragile. Sometimes if the circumstances change, the control
is abandoned. When all is said and done the best motive for self-control is
love. If we take care of our behaviour -- that is, we exercise the use of our
freedom carefully, in consideration of our brethren and sisters, that is the
highest motive of all and most likely to succeed. Love of our brethren: love
desiring their advancement; love seeking their salvation -- what a blessing it
is so to live your life that none of God's family is ever harmed but rather
blessed and encouraged, strengthened and provoked to love and good works.
Disciples moved by temperance have shed their hobnail boots. They walk gently
and circumspectly for love's sake. Temperance is the triumph of love"
SINCE WE LIVE BY THE SPIRIT, LET US KEEP IN STEP WITH THE
SPIRIT: Or, as AV, "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the
Spirit.." "You will never find true faith unattended by true godliness; on the
other hand, you will never discover a truly holy life which has not for its root
a living faith upon the righteousness of Christ" (CHS).