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EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL
WRIT FROM EPHESUS, THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 57, OF NERO 3.
The subject and design of this epistle of St. Paul is much the same with that of his epistle to the Romans, but treated in somewhat a different manner. The business of it is to dehort and hinder the Galatians from bringing themselves under the bondage of the Mosaical law.
St. Paul himself had planted the churches of Galatia, and therefore referring (as he does, chap. i. 8, 9) to what he had before taught them, does not, in this epistle, lay down at large to them the doctrine of the Gospel, as he does in that to the Romans, who having been converted to the Christian faith by others, he did not know how far they were instructed in all those particulars, which, on the occasion whereon he writ to them, it might be necessary for them to understand : and therefore, writing to the Romans, he sets before them a large and comprehensive view of the chief heads of the Christian religion.
He also deals more roundly with his disciples the Galatians than, we may observe, he does with the Romans, to whom he, being a stranger, writes not in so familiar a style, nor in his reproofs and exhortations uses so much the tone of a master, as he does to the Galatians.
St. Paul had converted the Galatians to the faith, and erected several churches among them, in the year of our Lord 51; between which and the year 57, wherein this epistle was writ, the disorders following were got into those churches :
First, Some zealots for the Jewish constitution had very near persuaded them out of their Christian liberty, and made them willing to submit to circumcision, and all the ritual observances of the Jewish church, as necessary under the Gospel, chap. i. 7. iii. 3. iv. 9, 10, 21. v. 1, 2, 6, 9, 10.
Secondly, Their dissensions and disputes in this matter had raised great animosities amongst them, to the disturbance of their peace, and the setting them at strife with one another, chap. v. 6, 13—15.
The reforming them in these two points seems to be the main business of this epistle, wherein he endeavours to establish them in a resolution to stand firm in the freedom of the Gospel, which exempts them from the bondage of the Mosaical law: and labours to reduce them to a sincere love and affection one to another; which he concludes with an exhortation to liberality and general beneficence, especially to their teachers, chap. vi. 6, 10. These being the matters he had in his mind to write to them about, he seems here as if he had done. But, upon mentioning, ver. 11, what a long letter he had writ to them with his own hand, the former argument concerning circumcision, which filled and warmed his mind, broke out again into what we find, ver. 12-17, of the sixth chapter.
CHAPTER I. 15.
CONTENTS. The general view of this epistle plainly shows St. Paul's chief design in it to be, to keep the Galatians from hearkening to those Judaizing seducers, who had almost persuaded them to be circumcised. These perverters of the Gospel of Christ, as St. Paul himself calls them, ver. 7, had, as may be gathered from ver. 8 and 10, and from chap. v. 11, and other passages of this epistle, made the Galatians believe, that St. Paul himself was for circumcision. Until St. Paul himself had set them right in this matter, and convinced them of the falsehood of this aspersion, it was in vain for him, by other arguments, to attempt the re-establishing the Galatians in the Christian liberty, and in that truth which he had preached to them. The removing, therefore, of this calumny was his first endeavour : and to that purpose, this introduction, different from what we find in any other of his epistles, is marvellously well adapted. He declares, here at the entrance, very expressly and emphatically, that he was not sent by men on their errands; nay, that Christ, in sending him, did not so much as convey his apostolic power to him by the ministry or intervention of any man; but that his commission and instructions were all entirely from God, and Christ himself, by immediate revelation. This, of itself, was an argument sufficient to induce them to believe, 1. That what he taught them, when he first preached the Gospel to them, was the truth, and that they ought to stick firm to that.' 2. That he changed not his doctrine, whatever might be reported of him. He was Christ's chosen officer, and had no dependence on men's opinions, nor regard to their authority or favour, in what he preached; and therefore it was not likely he should preach one thing at one time, and another thing at another.
Thus this preface is very proper in this place, to introduce what he is going to say concerning himself, and adds force to his discourse, and the account he gives of himself in the next section.
TEXT. 1 Paul, an apostle (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ,
and God the Father, who raised him from the dead ;) 2 And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia : 3 Grace be to you, and peace, from God the Father, and from our
Lord Jesus Christ, 4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this
present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father : 5 To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
PARAPHRASE. 1 Paul (an apostle not of men“, to serve their ends, or carry
on their designs, nor receiving his call, or commission, by the intervention of any man", to whom he might be thought to owe any respect or deference upon that account ; but immedi
ately from Jesus Christ, and from God the Father, who raised 2 him
up from the dead); And all the brethren that are with me, 3 unto the churches of Galatia : Favour be to you, and 4 from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who
gave himself for our sins, that he might take us out of this pre
sent evil world, according to the will and good pleasure of God 5 and our Father, To whom be glory for ever and ever.
NOTES. 1 • Oùx & r' árosúawy, “not of men," i. e. not sent by men at their pleasure, or by
their authority; not instructed by men what to say or do, as we see Timothy and Titus were, when sent by St. Paul; and Judas and Silas, sent by the church of Jerusalem.
Oudd Soår@púrou, “nor by man," i. e. his choice and separation to his ministry and apostleship was so wholly an act of God and Christ, that there was vo intervention of any thing done by any man in the case, as there was in the election of Matthias. All this we may see explained at large, ver. 10–12, and ver. 16,
17, and chap. ii. 6—9. 2 -" Churches of Galatia." This was an evident seal of his apostleship to the
Gentiles; since, in no bigger a country than Galatia, a small province of the
lesser Asia, he had, in no long stay among them, planted several distinct churches. 3!“ Peace.” The wishing of peace, in the Scripture-language, is the wishing of
all manner of good. 4 "Οπως εξέλησαι ημάς εκ του ενεςώτος αιώνος πονηρού. “ That he might take us
out of this present evil word," or age; so the Greck words signify. Whereby it cannot be thought that St. Paul meant, that Christians were to be immediately removed into the other world. Therefore iveçcs aiùy must signify something else than present world, in the ordinary import of those words in English. Aiùy ot tos, 1 Cor. ii. 6, 8, and in other places, plainly signifies the Jewish nation, under the Mosaical constitution; and it suits very well with the apostle's design in this epistle, that it should do so here. God has, in this world, but one kingdom, and one people. The nation of the Jews were the kingdom and people of God, whilst the law stood. And this kingdom of God, under the Mosaical constitution, was called alùn otos, this age, or as it is commonly translated, this world, to which aiwo fresais, the present world, or age, here
NOTE. answers. But the kingdom of God, which was to be under the Messiah, wherein the economy and constitution of the Jewish church, and the nation itself, that, in opposition to Christ, adhered to it, was to be laid aside, is in the New Testament called alùn puéraw, the world, or age to come; so that “ Christ's taking them out of the present world” nay, without any violence to the words, be understood to signify his setting them free from the Mosaical constitution. This is suitable to the design of this epistle, and what St. Paul has declared in many other places. See Col. ii. 14—17, aud 20, which agrees to this place, and Rom. vii. 4, 6. This law is said to be contrary to us, Col. ii. 14, and to “ work wrath," Rom. iv. 15, and St. Paul speaks very diminishingly of the ritual parts of it in many places : but yet if all this may not be thought sufficient to justify the applying of the epithet wonpoő, evil, to it; that scruple will be removed if we take évesùs aiùs, “ this present world,” here, for the Jewish constitution and nation together; in which sepse it may very well be called “evil;" though the apostle, out of his wonted tenderness to his nation, forbears to pame them openly, and uses a doubtful expression, which inight comprehend the heathen world also; though he chiefly pointed at the Jews.
CHAPTER I. 6.-II. 21.
We have observed, that St. Paul's first endeavour, in this epistle, was to satisfy the Galatians, that the report spread of him, that he preached circumcision, was false. Until this obstruction that lay in his way was removed, it was to no purpose for him to go about to dissuade them from circumcision, though that be what he principally aims, in this epistle. To show them, that he promoted not circumcision, he calls their hearkening to those who persuaded them to be circumcised, their being removed from him; and those that so persuaded them, “ perverters of the Gospel of Christ,” ver. 6, 7. He farther assures them, that the Gospel which he preached every where was that, and that only, which he had received by immediate revelation from Christ, and no contrivance of man, nor did he vary it to please men: that would not consist with his
being a servant of Christ, ver. 10. And he expresses such a firm adherence to what he had received from Christ, and had preached to them, that he pronounces an anathema upon himself, ver. 8, 9, or any other man or angel that should preach any thing else to them. To make out this to have been all along his conduct, he gives an account of himself, for many years backwards, even from the time before his conversion. Wherein he