Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Galatians 6:14-18

To provide context this post opens with the Bishop’s brief analysis of all of Galatians 6, followed by his notes on verses 14-18. Text in purple represents the Bishop’s paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on. Text in red, if any, are my additions.

ANALYSIS OF GALATIANS CHAPTER 6

In this chapter, the Apostle inculcates, in particular cases, the exercise of charity, the necessity of which he had shown in a general way, in the foregoing (verse 14). He exhorts those who are well instructed in the faith, to discharge the duty of charitable correction with regard to their weaker brethren. This, however, was to be done in a spirit of compassionate meekness and clemency, which the consideration of their own frailty would easily suggest to them (verse 1). They should sympathize with their weak brethren, and, far from growing proud at the contrast between their own works and the frailties of others, should rather be humbled at the prospect of the account they are to render before a just Judge for their own transgressions (2–5). He exhorts them to the performance of good works, particularly the good work of supporting their teachers (6). He exhorts them to persevere in sowing the seeds of virtue, from a consideration of the rich harvest of glory which they were to reap. They should exhibit benevolence towards all men, but, in a special manner, towards the faithful members of the Church (5–10). He derives a final argument against the doctrine of the false teachers respecting the legal ceremonies, from the corrupt morals of these men, and the base motives by which they were actuated, in urging the Galatians to receive circumcision (11–13). Their motive was, first, to please the Jews, and thus avoid persecution (12); and, secondly, to have matter for glorying in the circumcision of the Galatians as brought about by themselves (13). The Apostle shows how different are the objects he has in view. He glories only in the cross of Christ; and, secondly, far from seeking human applause, by this cross he is become an object of aversion to the world (14). He assigns reasons for glorying only in the cross and passion of Christ (15, 16); and, finally, furnishes the Galatians, when tempted, or constrained to be circumcised (12), with a general answer which they were to give to those who were molesting them (17). The words of this verse are spoken by the Apostle in the name of the Galatians.

Gal 6:14  But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.

But, as for me, far be it from me to glory in anything else save in the cross and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom, and on whose account, the world, whose esteem the false teachers seek, is dead, nay, an object of abhorrence and execration to me, as I am, on the other hand, hated and execrated by it.

The Apostle contrasts his own love of the cross, and of suffering, for Christ’s sake, with the love of pleasure and ease, in which the false teachers indulged; and his contempt for the esteem of the world, that regards him as an object of execration, with their love of popularity and human applause. The motives, and the objects which he has in view, are diametrically opposed to theirs. He protests, that so far as glorying is concerned, while the others glory in carnal things, he rejects all other glorying, “save in the cross of Jesus Christ”—in believing, in preaching its efficiency, in enduring its sufferings. “By whom the world,” whose praise and esteem the false teachers court, “is crucified to me,” is an object of abhorrence to me, as the cross naturally is to all. “And I to the world.” Far from being concerned about the persecution to which he may be subjected for Christ—far from wishing to renounce the cross and its preaching, in order, like the false teachers, to avoid persecution (verse 12)—he is already an object of horror and aversion to the world on account of the preaching of the cross. No wonder that the Apostle should show his love for the cross, on which the sacred limbs of the Man God were extended, since on it Redemption was accomplished, and all the inconceivable blessings flowing therefrom were secured at an infinite price. On the cross can be seen the magnitude of sin, and the boundless love of God. How strikingly do not the heroism of the Apostle, and his love of suffering contrast with our accommodation to the maxims of a corrupt world, and our love of ease and self-indulgence.

Gal 6:15  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision: but a new creature.

For, in Christianity, neither is circumcision nor uncircumcision of any avail; the only thing of avail is, the renovation of the interior man by sanctifying grace, which is the fruit of the cross and passion of Christ.

This verse contains an epitome, or abstract of the entire doctrine of the Epistle. The Apostle assigns it as a reason for making the cross and passion of Christ the subject of his glorying, because in Christanity both circumcision and uncircumcision are accounted as nothing; the only thing of avail before God is “the new creature;” or, the renovation of the interior man by sanctifying grace, which is the fruit of the cross and passion of Christ, in which the Apostle therefore justly glories.

Gal 6:16  And whosoever shall follow this rule, peace on them and mercy: and upon the Israel of God.

And whosoever shall advance within the orderly limits of this rule (respecting the newness of life, (verse 15), or respecting the doctrine of justification as explained throughout the entire Epistle), may the peace and mercy of God descend upon them, whether Gentiles or faithful Jews; for they are the true Israel and people of God.

“Shall follow this rule.” The Greek is. ὅσοι τῷ κανόνι τούτω στοιχήσουσιν, whosoever shall advance in an orderly way in this canon. The word, canon, denotes a builder’s plummet, or a carpenter’s rule. What “this rule” refers to, is a subject of discussion. Some refer it to a rule of faith, and extend it to the whole subject of the Epistle; or, to the doctrine of the preceding verse—“For in Christ Jesus,” &c. Others understand it of a rule of morals, and make it refer to the words, “new creature,” as if the Apostle pointed out this regeneration and spiritual renovation through sanctifying grace, as the rule of life and morals which all Christians should follow. “Peace be upon them,” &c. According to the English translation, these words are precatory, and convey a benediction from the Apostle. According to others, the words are merely assertory, and convey an additional reason for glorying in the cross of Christ, because grace and mercy are in store for those who observe this rule. “And upon the Israel of God,” is added, according to some, lest the Apostle might seem to be excluding the Jews, at least the believing portion of them (“Israel of God,”) from the forementioned blessings. Others, more probably, understand the words of spiritual Israel, whether Jews or Gentiles (as in Paraphrase). “And,” is probably explicative, and means, namely.

Gal 6:17  From henceforth let no man be troublesome to me: for I bear the marks of the Lord Jesus in my body.

Henceforth, let no man trouble me any longer by working either upon my fears or scruples to force me to submit to circumcision (verse 12). For, I bear in my body more honourable scars, than those impressed by circumcision, the marks of the Lord Jesus in the persecutions and wounds which I suffered for the faith.

“From henceforth,” &c. The more probable connection of this verse appears to be that which makes it have reference to verse 12, and supposes it to contain a general answer to be given by the Galatians, when their fears or scruples were appealed to, in order to have them submit to circumcision. “They constrain you to be circumcised,” &c.—(verse 12). It is to be borne in mind that in verses 12, 13, the Apostle points out the motives of the false teachers in forcing the Galatians to be circumcised; viz.—Firstly, to please the Jews, and thereby escape persecution; and secondly, to have matter for glorying in their circumcision as brought about by themselves. In verse 14, the Apostle shows how different his subject for glorying—viz., the cross—was from theirs, and, how unconcerned he was about the applause of the world, to which he was an object of abhorrence. He then, in verse 17, speaking in the name of the Galatians, furnishes an answer which they are to render to those who are forcing them to be circumcised, amounting to this: “Cease from troubling me or working any longer on my fears and scruples; for, if it be necessary for me to bear any marks on my body, such as circumcision impresses, I bear them already in the marks of violence, inflicted on me for the faith and Gospel of Christ.” This answer might be fairly given by the Galatians, many of whom suffered for the Gospel as appears (3:4). This is the interpretation of Père Mauduit. Others understand the Apostle to refer to himself personally. “Let no one trouble me any longer about the observance of Jewish ceremonies; for, as I glory only in the cross of Christ, I bear in my body the most honourable scars, the marks of Christ, in the persecutions and wounds which I underwent for the Gospel.”—(2 Corinthians, 11:24).

Gal 6:18  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.

The Greek copies have the following subscription: “Written from Rome unto the Galatians.” This, however, is rejected by critics, as not authentic.

Blessings also close out the letter to the Philippians, 2 Tim, and Philemon. Grace should here be understood as God’s full salvific bounty, as in the opening addresses of St Paul’s letters. Paul blessing is that this salvific bounty be with the spirit of the Galatians. Spirit here is not a reference to the Holy Spirit, rather, it is synonymous with the person, designating especially consciousness and functions of thought (see 1 Cor 2:11). St Paul’s desire is that the individual Galatians always be conscious of, and thinking about, the full breath of God’s salvific gifts for them, lest they remain deluded and foolish (Gal 3:1-3), forsaking the Gospel for a worthless imitation (Gal 1:6-9). One should have the attitude of St Paul’s spiritual interior: glorying in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ as a new creature (see verses 14-15).

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One Response to Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Galatians 6:14-18

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C | stjoeofoblog

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