Galatians 5:13 MEANING

Galatians 5:13
(13-15) The Judaisers would deserve such a fate; for they are undoing the whole object with which you were called. You were called, not to legal bondage, but to freedom. This caution only is needed: Do not make freedom a pretext for self-indulgence. One servitude you may submit to--the service of love. So doing, you will fulfil the Law without being legalists. He who loves his neighbour as himself will need no other rule. On the other hand, dissensions will be fatal, not to one party only, but to all who take part in them.

(13) For.--This connecting particle supplies the reason for the Apostle's severe treatment of the Judaisers.

An occasion to the flesh.--Do not, under the name "liberty," give way to sensual excesses. This was the especial danger of the Gentile churches, such as Corinth, from which, as we have seen, the Apostle may have been writing. Galatia, too, was a Gentile church; and though it was for the present subject rather to Judaising influences, the character of the people was fickle, and St. Paul may have thought it well to hint a caution in this direction.

Serve.--There is a stress upon this word. The Apostle had been dissuading the Galatians from submitting to other forms of servitude. This one he will permit them.

Verse 13. - For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty (ὑμεῖς γὰρ ἐπ ἐλευθερίᾳ ἐκλήθητε ἀδελφοί); for ye, brethren, were called unto (Greek, for) freedom. The "for" points back to the closing words of the preceding verse, which implied a settled state of well-being from which those troublers were driving his readers; that happy state (the apostle says) was the very glory and essence of their "calling." This, of course, was that condition of free men described at the end of the foregoing chapter, and summarized in the first verse of this chapter. This is again, even more briefly, recapitulated in the first clause of the present verse. As the summary in the first verse supplied a starting-point for the warnings against the Judaizers which have taken up the foregoing twelve verses, so this new summary furnishes the starting-point for exhortations designed to guard the evangelical doctrine against antinomian perversion, by insisting upon the moral behaviour required of those who enjoy the freedom which Christ gives. These exhortations occupy the remainder of this chapter and a part of the next. "Ye," being what ye are, believers baptized into Christ. The verb "were called" expresses a complete idea, meaning of itself without any adjunct, "called by God to be people of his own" (cf. "calleth," ver. 8, and the passages there cited). The words, "unto," or "for, freedom," supply an adjunct notion; as in Ephesians 4:4, the clause, "in one hope of your calling," does to the same verb. So again 1 Thessalonians 4:7," For God called us, not unto [or, 'for' ] uncleanness, but in sanctification.' 'The preposition ἐπί, both in the passage last cited and in the present verse, denotes the condition or understanding upon which God had called them: they were "called" upon the understanding that they should be in a state of liberty. So Ephesians 2:10, "Created in Christ Jesus unto ['Greek,' for] good works." God calls us in Christ to be free in these three respects:

(1) free from condemnation and conscience of guiltiness;

(2) free from pupil-age to a ceremonial institute of positive, carnal ordinances, and from bondage to a letter-Law;

(3) free, as consciously his children, knit to him by his adopting Spirit, which makes us partakers of his nature. Only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh (μόνον μὴ τὴν ἐλευθερίαν εἰς ἀφορμὴν τῆς σαρκός); only, no freedom which shall be an occasion to the flesh! or, only, make not your freedom into an occasion for the flesh. The noun ἐλευθερίαν, being in the accusative, cannot be taken as simply a resumption of the ἐλευθερίᾳ immediately before. In his eagerness to at once bar the antinomian's abuse of the gospel, the apostle omits the verb which should account for this accusative; and the result is a sentence which may be taken as grouping with various passages in classical Greek authors, being in fact quite a natural way of speaking in any language; such as in Demosthenes, ' Philippians,' 1. p. 45, "No ten thousand mercenaries for me! (μή μοι μυριόυς... ξένους);" Sophocles, ' Ant.,' 573, "No more loiterings! but... (μὴ τριβὰς ἔτ ἀλλά...); "Aristophanes, ' Ach.,' 326, "No false pretences for me, but... (μή μοι πρόφασιν ἀλλά...)." In such cases it simply weakens the vivacity of the style, if we supply any verb. The alternative rendering supplies δῶτε, which is in fact found in two uncial manuscripts, F, G, or ἀποχρήσησθε, proposed by OEcumenius. In the former way of construing we have in thought to supply a second τὴν after ἐλευθερίαν, as in 1 Corinthians 10:18, Βλέπετε τὸν Ἰσραὴλ κατὰ σάρκα: 2 Corinthians 7:7; Colossians 1:8; Ephesians 2:15. The preposition εἰς is need as Romans 11:9; 1 Corinthians 14:22, etc. The sense of the noun ἀφορμή, starting-point, is well illustrated by its use, in the military language of Greece, for a "basis of operations" (cf. Romans 7:8, 11; 2 Corinthians 5:12; 1 Timothy 5:14). Reflection at once shows us that a "freedom" which allows a man to obey the behests of his lower nature is only by a false use of the term capable of being grouped with that freedom wherewith Christ makes us free. It adopts out of the latter the single element of emancipation from ceremonial law and letter-Law, and lets go altogether the concomitant notions of spiritual emancipation which are of its very essence. Such an emancipation hands its victim clean over to the thraldom of sin (John 8:34; 2 Peter 2:18, 19). St. Peter, in his First Epistle, addressed to a large group of Churches founded by St. Paul, including those of Galatia, has a number of passages which apparently take up sentiments and even expressions found in St. Paul's writings (see 1 Peter 5:12), as it were, ratifying them; and possibly he has an eye to the present verse when he writes (1 Peter 2:16), "as free, and not using your freedom for a cloak of wickedness, but as bond-servants of God." "The flesh" is not to have its own way, but is to own the mastery of the Spirit. But by love serve one another (ἀλλὰ διὰ τῆς ἀγάπης δουλεύετε ἀλλήλοις); but through love be in bondage to one another; i.e. let love make you bondservants to one another. The verb δουλεύω also means "do acts of bond-service,' as Ephesians 6:7 and 1 Timothy 6:2. This sense is included in the "being in bondage ' here spoken cf. In the present posture of affairs in these Churches, the apostle sees occasion for selecting just here one particular branch of Christian goodness to enforce upon their observance. Presently after (vers. 16-20 he enlarges the field of view; though even there still giving much prominence to the vices of malignity and to the benignant virtues. Just now he has his eye especially on the evils of contentiousness (ver. 15), and upon love as their corrective. We may suppose such evils were now especially rife amongst the Galatians, whose natural character, commonly described as quarrelsome, was apparently evincing itself in connection with the disputes which the teaching and yet more the outward action of the Judaizers were giving rise to. In fact, a loving temper of mind, along with other benefits, is recommended also by this, that it guards Churches from corrupting innovations in doctrine and Church practice; checking our self-will and our obtrusive vanity, it leads us to avoid giving uneasiness to others by thrusting upon them new notions or new modes of conduct, and makes it our ambition to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The pattern set by our Lord (John 13:15), both in washing his disciples' feet and indeed in his whole incarnate life (Philippians 2:7), was grandly imitated by the apostle himself (1 Corinthians 9:19-22), who in outward things habitually sacrificed the pride of independence and self-assertion, and the pride of apparent self-consistency, in his devotion to the spiritual welfare of men. He here preaches just what he himself practised.

5:13-15 The gospel is a doctrine according to godliness, 1Ti 6:3, and is so far from giving the least countenance to sin, that it lays us under the strongest obligation to avoid and subdue it. The apostle urges that all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. If Christians, who should help one another, and rejoice one another, quarrel, what can be expected but that the God of love should deny his grace, that the Spirit of love should depart, and the evil spirit, who seeks their destruction, should prevail? Happy would it be, if Christians, instead of biting and devouring one another on account of different opinions, would set themselves against sin in themselves, and in the places where they live.For brethren, ye have been called unto liberty,.... He calls them "brethren", to testify his affection to them, and to put them in mind of their relation to one another, which required mutual love, a thing he is about to press them to; he asserts that they were "called" not merely externally, but internally, by the effectual grace of God, out of bondage to sin, Satan, and the law, unto the liberty of the Gospel and of the grace of God; that liberty wherewith Christ had made them free, Galatians 5:1 this he said in a judgment of charity, hoping well of them:

only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh; corrupt nature, which in unregenerate men takes encouragement from, and makes an ill use of the best of things, as the mercy and patience of God; and not only takes an occasion by the law, forbidding sin to work and stir up all manner of concupiscence; but also by the Gospel, and the doctrines of it, such as eternal election, free justification, &c. which though the source and fountain, the barrier and security, of all true and real holiness, are improved and abused by wicked minds, under the influence and instigation of Satan, to vile purposes; and though regenerate persons are not in the flesh, and do not live after it, yet that is in them, and there is a proneness in them to sin; and Satan is watching all opportunities and advantages against them; so that there is need for such a caution as this, that they do not misuse their Christian liberty by indulging the flesh and the lusts of it, which is apt to take an occasion to cherish its lusts, and especially when given: Christ's free men should not do so, for that is to disgrace the doctrine of Christian liberty, to enthral themselves in, bondage instead of using their liberty aright, and to give the enemy occasion to blaspheme: the doctrine of Christian liberty may bc abused, or used as an occasion to the flesh, and to fulfil the lusts of it; when under a pretence thereof men think themselves exempt from obedience to the civil magistrate, which is using this liberty as a cloak of maliciousness; or that they are free from obedience to the law of God, as a rule of walk and conversation; or from subjection to the ordinances of the Gospel; or when they use the creatures God has given them the free use of without thankfulness, and in an immoderate manner; and when they make things indifferent which are not, or use indifferent things to the prejudice of others; and their liberty becomes a stumblingblock to weak Christians, which the apostle seems greatly to regard here; since he adds,

but by love serve one another: the Vulgate Latin version reads, "by the love of the Spirit": and so some copies; Gospel liberty and the service of the saints are not at all inconsistent; as it becomes them to love one another, as the new command of Christ, their profession of religion, and their relation to each other, require, so they should show their love by their service; as by praying one with and for another, by bearing each other's burdens, sympathizing with and communicating to each other in things temporal and spiritual; in forbearing with and forgiving one another; by admonishing each other when there is occasion for it, in a meek, tender, and brotherly way; by instructing and building up one another on their most holy faith, and by stirring up one another to all the duties of religion, private and public.

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