Paul Kretzmann Commentary - Galatians 5:5 - 5:10

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Paul Kretzmann Commentary - Galatians 5:5 - 5:10


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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

Paul warns against the leaven of false doctrine:

v. 5. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

v. 6. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.

v. 7. Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?

v. 8. This persuasion cometh not of Him that calleth you.

v. 9. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

v. 10. I have confidence in you through the Lord that ye will be none otherwise minded; but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.

In a beautiful summary of some of the main points of Christian doctrine the apostle here, first of all, reminds the Galatians of the spiritual benefits which are theirs by virtue of their Christian faith. Instead of placing our trust in the righteousness of the Law and hoping to obtain salvation by observing Jewish rites and ceremonies, we believers, through the Holy Spirit, through faith, expect the hope of righteousness. Faith in Jesus Christ is wrought by the Holy Spirit, by whom it is also nourished and maintained, who gives the pledge of its fulfillment, 2Co_1:22; Eph_1:14; Rom_3:11-23. By this faith we not only possess the righteousness of Jesus Christ here in time, but we also have the certain hope of being justified on the great Day of Judgment. All those that remain in faith by the power of the Spirit are sure of their gracious acceptance by God at the final judgment.

Works of the Law, ceremonies of the Jewish ritual are therefore entirely ruled out, as well as any merit in man: For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision has any power nor uncircumcision, but faith active through love. In the sphere in which Christ is active, in which He rules with His grace and mercy, all human activity cannot be considered as having any merit. God's acceptance of a sinner is not influenced by the fact that he has received circumcision,—that rite has nothing to do with his justification; nor could one pride himself upon the fact that he had not received the Jewish rite,—a Gentile Christian that presumed to boast against his Jewish neighbors was making a very foolish mistake. For it is faith, and faith alone, faith that accepts the righteousness of Jesus Christ, faith that therefore is operative and active in works of love, which avails in the Christian hope. By faith the believers obtain the salvation earned for all men by Christ's atoning work; and this same faith shows its life in the manifold deeds of love which are praised so highly in Scriptures. As Luther writes: "He that hears the Word of Christ in all sincerity, and adheres to it in faith, will also soon be clothed with the spirit of love. " And again: "Oh, but faith is a living, busy, active, powerful thing, so that it is impossible that it should not always be doing something good. It does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before one asks, it has done them and is always active in doing them."

Having shown what glorious blessings are in the possession of the believers, the apostle next describes the backsliding of the Galatians: You were running splendidly. They had just reached that stage in their spiritual life and its manifestations where Paul could feel a measure of satisfaction over the fine showing which they made; they seemed to be on the road to Christian perfection, as he concluded from the eagerness with which they pursued their course in holiness. Therefore it is a matter of such great concern to him: Who placed an obstruction in your way not to be obedient to the truth? Just as a runner is diverted from the path or prevented from continuing in the race by some unforeseen obstacle, so the Galatians had suddenly been hindered in their course of faith and sanctification. They were no longer yielding an attentive ear to the truth of the Gospel as preached by Paul; they were forsaking the way of righteousness by faith. Paul answers his question himself: That kind of persuasion does not come from Him that called you. It was God who had called them in the first place, through the Gospel-preaching of Paul, to which they had given ready heed at that time. But the present persuasion had a different source; this willingness to listen to false teachers had its origin in a far different place, which Paul's tactful way of speaking here indicates: it was the work of the devil, the arch-enemy of the Gospel.

Warningly the apostle therefore calls out to his readers: A little leaven leavens the whole mass. See 1Co_5:6. Just as the slightest bit of yeast, or leaven, when introduced into a mass of dough, will soon penetrate the entire lump and cause it to partake of its own nature, thus any false doctrine will quickly influence all the other doctrines of the Christian Church and work moral and spiritual corruption. The suggestions of the Judaizing teachers might seem harmless enough to the Galatians, but the principle underlying their teaching was of a nature to subvert the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. This holds true for all times; for, as Luther says, one word of God is all, and all words of God are one; all articles of Christian faith are one, and one includes them all; if we therefore give up one, then all the rest will fall away singly, for they all are connected and belong together. If a person gives up the inspiration of the Bible, he will soon have no passage to stand on; if a minister teaches wrong in the doctrine of conversion, he thereby opens the door to all manner of legalistic and heathenish doctrines. To resist the entering wedge of false doctrine, therefore, is a matter of prime importance to every Christian.

Although the false teachers felt confident that they had shaken the allegiance of the Galatians, Paul, nevertheless, had not given up all hope with regard to them: I, for my part, am persuaded in regard to you in the Lord that you will not be otherwise minded in anything. Paul was fighting for the souls of the Galatians, and he was confident in the Lord that the designs of the false teachers would not be consummated. He was sure that the Christians to whom he had brought the Gospel amidst so many difficulties would not alter the conviction of their hearts, would not really yield to the false doctrine. The real fault lay on the other side, the blame for the present condition would attach to the offenders, to the disturbers of the spiritual peace in Galatia, every one of whom, no matter what his standing, would be obliged to bear his condemnation. The sentence of God by which He expresses His disapproval and judgment upon such offenders would be found a galling burden.