Paul Kretzmann Commentary - Galatians 5:11 - 5:15

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Paul Kretzmann Commentary - Galatians 5:11 - 5:15

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

The service of love as opposed to the service of the flesh:

v. 11. and I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? Then is the offense of the Cross ceased.

v. 12. I would they were even cut off which trouble you.

v. 13. For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

v. 14. For all the Law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

v. 15. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

Paul here finds it necessary to deny a charge of the false teachers that he himself was still preaching circumcision. It may be that the resolution of the meeting at Jerusalem was deliberately misconstrued, Act_15:1-41, or the opponents were making the best of the fact that Paul had circumcised Timothy, Act_16:3. But the apostle finds little difficulty in refuting the charge: If I am still preaching circumcision, if that be true that I am insisting upon this rite as a prerequisite for salvation, why is it that I am yet persecuted? Why should the Jews and the Jewish teachers continue their attacks upon him? What reason would they have for such behavior? Then the offense of the Cross has been entirely removed; or: Has the stumbling block of the Cross, then, been put away? No Jew would then have to be offended any more at the Savior's death on the cross, at the message that Christ's death was the only ground of salvation, for Paul's own preaching would have been retracted, then he would have admitted that the Jewish ceremonies were still necessary for justification.

But so offensive is this very thought to the apostle that he cries out: Would that they had even made themselves eunuchs that cause you to rebel! Since they overemphasized the rite of circumcision, Paul wishes that they might go a step farther and proceed to the mutilation of the flesh like that practiced by many heathen in that region of Galatia, who made this a practice in honor of the goddess Cybele. For then they would be excluded from the Jewish community, Deu_23:1, and there would be some hope of their accepting the gracious liberty of the Gospel, or at least of no longer hindering such as put their trust in the Gospel.

But as for the Galatian Christians, Paul reminds them: For you were called to liberty, brethren; only (use) not your liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but through love serve one another. The condition of the false teachers was that of servitude to the Law, and their endeavor aimed at foisting this bondage upon the Christians; for them, therefore, the apostle has only a malediction. But the condition of the believers is that of liberty, of the freedom of the Gospel, to which they have been called, into which they have been brought. It is the glorious liberty of the children of God. But liberty is not identical with license. And so the believers will not place their liberty into service in such a way as to offer an opening for sin. The freedom of the Gospel does not permit a person to do as he pleases, does not sanction indulgence in sinful lusts. The liberty which the believers enjoy should rather be treated as an opening for loving service toward one another. A true Christian will subordinate all selfish desires to the eager desire to be of service to his neighbor; a true Christian is the freest person in the world, and yet, by his own free will, he is never without service. And thus, as a believer, as a partaker of the freedom of the Gospel, the Christian is enabled to do what he could never have done while in bondage to the Law: he can practice love, which is the fulfillment of the Law: The entire Law is fulfilled in that one sentence, namely, in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, Love is the substance of the Law, and therefore by showing perfect love we fulfill the Law. The precept of Lev_19:18 gives a summary of the Law, showing that the keeping of the Law must proceed from the right condition of the heart; for then the external works will follow as a matter of course. "For that reason we are called to liberty, we fulfill the entire Law, when we, in case our neighbor needs it, serve him alone through love. " But if, on the other hand, people calling themselves Christians bite and devour each other, as Paul expresses it, then they may well take heed lest the result be that they consume each other. If the spirit of Christian love does not prevent believers from preying upon one another, they are in danger of utter destruction. This may well have been the case in the Galatian congregations, when the contrast between Jewish and Gentile Christians was brought out by the agitation attending the message of the false teachers. Note: This is always the result of factions and divisions within the Christian congregations; if no party is willing to act according to the great principle of love and all are disposed to supplant the rest, the end often shows a wasting away of the entire organization.