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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Galatians 5



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Verse 1

With freedom (τηι ελευτεριαιtēi eleutheriāi). Rather dative case instead of instrumental, “for freedom,” “for the (article) freedom that belongs to us children of the freewoman” (Galatians 4:31).

Did Christ set us free (ημας Χριστος ηλευτερωσενhēmas Christos ēleutherōsen). Effective aorist active indicative of ελευτεροωeleutheroō (from ερχομαιerchomai to go, go free).

Stand fast therefore (στηκετε ουνstēkete oun). See Mark 3:31; 1 Corinthians 16:13 for this late word from perfect stem of ιστημιhistēmi “keep on standing therefore,” “stay free since Christ set you free.”

Be not entangled again (μη παλιν ενεχεστεmē palin enechesthe). “Stop being held in by a yoke of bondage.” Common word for ensnare by trap. The Judaizers were trying to lasso the Galatians for the old yoke of Judaism.

Verse 2

I Paul (εγω Παυλοςegō Paulos). Asserts all his personal and apostolic authority. For both words see also 1 Thessalonians 2:16; 2 Corinthians 10:1; Colossians 1:23; Ephesians 3:1.

If ye receive circumcision (εαν περιτεμνηστεean peritemnēsthe). Condition of third class and present passive subjunctive, a supposable case, but with terrible consequences, for they will make circumcision a condition of salvation. In that case Christ will help them not at all.

Verse 3

A debtor (οπειλετηςopheiletēs). Common word from οπειλωopheilō to owe for one who has assumed an obligation. See note on Matthew 6:12. See note on Galatians 3:10. He takes the curse on himself.

Verse 4

Ye are severed from Christ (κατηργητητε απο Χριστουkatērgēthēte apo Christou). First aorist passive of καταργεωkatargeō to make null and void as in Romans 7:2, Romans 7:6.

Who would be justified by the law (οιτινες εν νομωι δικαιουστεhoitines en nomōi dikaiousthe). Present passive conative indicative, “ye who are trying to be justified in the law.”

Ye are fallen away from grace (της χαριτος εχεπεσατεtēs charitos exepesate). Second aorist active indicative of εκπιπτωekpiptō (with αa variable vowel of the first aorist) and followed by the ablative case. “Ye did fall out of grace,” “ye left the sphere of grace in Christ and took your stand in the sphere of law” as your hope of salvation. Paul does not mince words and carries the logic to the end of the course. He is not, of course, speaking of occasional sins, but he has in mind a far more serious matter, that of substituting law for Christ as the agent in salvation.

Verse 5

For we (ημεις γαρhēmeis gar). We Christians as opposed to the legalists.

Through the Spirit by faith (πνευματι εκ πιστεωςpneumati ek pisteōs). By the Spirit (Holy Spirit) out of faith (not law). Clear-cut repetition to make it plain.

Verse 6

Availeth anything (ισχυει τιischuei ti). Old word to have strength (ισχςischūs). See Matthew 5:13. Neither Jew nor Greek has any recommendation in his state. See Galatians 3:28. All stand on a level in Christ.

Faith working through love (pistis di' agapēs energoumenē). Middle voice of energeō and “through love,” “the moral dynamic” (Burton) of Paul‘s conception of freedom from law.

Verse 7

Who did hinder you? (τις υμας ενεκοπσενtis humas enekopseṅ). First aorist active indicative of ενκοπτωenkoptō to cut in on one, for all the world like our use of one cutting in on us at the telephone. For this late verb see note on Acts 24:4; note on 1 Thessalonians 2:18. Note the singular τιςtis There was some ringleader in the business. Some one “cut in” on the Galatians as they were running the Christian race and tried to trip them or to turn them.

Verse 8

This persuasion (η πεισμονηhē peismonē). “The art of persuasion,” the effort of the Judaizers to persuade you. Only here and in ecclesiastical writers.

Verse 9

This proverb Paul has in 1 Corinthians 5:6. It is merely the pervasive power of leaven that is involved in the proverb as in Matthew 13:33, not the use of leaven as a symbol of evil.

Verse 10

Whosoever he be (οστις εαν ηιhostis ean ēi). Indefinite relative clause with εανean and subjunctive. It seems unlikely that Paul knew precisely who the leader was. In Galatians 1:6 he uses the plural of the same verb ταρασσωtarassō and see also αναστατουντεςanastatountes in Galatians 5:12.

Verse 11

Why am I still persecuted? (τι ετι διωκομαιti eti diōkomai̇). Some of the Judaizers even circulated the slander that Paul preached circumcision in order to ruin his influence.

Verse 12

I would (οπελονophelon). Would that, used as conjunction in wishes. See 1 Corinthians 4:8; note on 2 Corinthians 11:1. Here a wish about the future with future indicative.

They which unsettle you (οι αναστατουντες υμαςhoi anastatountes humas). Late verb from αναστατοςanastatos driven from one‘s abode, and in papyri in this sense as well as in sense of upsetting or disturbing one‘s mind (boy‘s letter) as here. In Acts 17:6; Acts 21:38 we have it in sense of making a commotion.

Cut themselves off (αποκοπσονταιapokopsontai). Future middle of αποκοπτωapokoptō old word to cut off as in Acts 27:32, here to mutilate.

Verse 13

Ye were called for freedom (επ ελευτεριαι εκλητητεep' eleutheriāi eklēthēte). The same point as in Galatians 5:1 made plainer by the use of επep' (on the basis of, for the purpose of). See note on 1 Thessalonians 4:7 for this use of επιepi

Only use not (μονον μηmonon mē). No word for “use” in the Greek. Probably supply τρεπετεtrepete or στρεπετεstrephete “turn not your liberty into an occasion for the flesh” (εις απορμην τηι σαρκιeis aphormēn tēi sarki), as a spring board for license. On απορμηaphormē see note on 2 Corinthians 5:12. Liberty so easily turns to license.

Verse 14

Even in this (εν τωιen tōi). Just the article with ενen “in the,” but it points at the quotation from Leviticus 19:18. Jews (Luke 10:29) confined “neighbour” (πλησιονplēsion) to Jews. Paul uses here a striking paradox by urging obedience to the law against which he has been arguing, but this is the moral law as proof of the new love and life. See also Romans 13:8, precisely as Jesus did (Matthew 22:40).

Verse 15

If ye bite and devour one another (ει αλληλους δακνετε και κατεστιετεei allēlous daknete kai katesthiete). Condition of first class assumed as true. Two common and old verbs often used together of wild animals, or like cats and dogs.

That ye be not consumed one of another (μη υπ αλληλων αναλωτητεmē hup' allēlōn analōthēte). Negative final clause with first aorist passive subjunctive of αναλισκωanaliskō old word to consume or spend. In N.T. only here and Luke 9:54. There is a famous story of two snakes that grabbed each other by the tail and each swallowed the other.

Verse 16

Ye shall not fulfil (ου μη τελεσητεou mē telesēte). Rather, “Ye will not fulfil.” Strong double negative with aorist active subjunctive.

The lust of the flesh (επιτυμιαν σαρκοςepithumian sarkos). Bad sense here as usual in Paul, but not so in 1 Thessalonians 2:17; Philemon 1:23. The word is just craving or longing (from επι τυμοςepithumos yearning after).

Verse 17

Lusteth against (επιτυμει καταepithumei kata). Like a tug of war. This use of σαρχsarx as opposed to the Spirit (Holy Spirit) personifies σαρχsarx Lightfoot argues that επιτυμειepithumei cannot be used with the Spirit and so some other verb must be supplied for it. But that is wholly needless, for the verb, like επιτυμιαepithumia does not mean evil desire, but simply to long for. Christ and Satan long for the possession of the city of Man Soul as Bunyan shows.

Are contrary the one to the other (αλληλοις αντικειταιallēlois antikeitai). Are lined up in conflict, face to face (αντιanti̇), a spiritual duel (cf. Christ‘s temptations), with dative case of personal interest (αλληλοιςallēlois).

That ye may not do (ινα μη ποιητεhina mē poiēte). “That ye may not keep on doing” (present active subjunctive of ποιεωpoieō).

That ye would (α εαν τελητεha ean thelēte). “Whatever ye wish” (indefinite relative with εανean and present subjunctive).

Verse 18

Under the law (υπο νομονhupo nomon). Instead of “under the flesh” as one might expect. See Galatians 3:2-6 for contrast between law and spirit. The flesh made the law weak (Romans 8:3; Hebrews 9:10, Hebrews 9:13). They are one and the same in result. See same idea in Romans 8:14. Note present tense of αγεστεagesthe (if you are continually led by the Spirit). See Galatians 5:23.

Verse 19

Manifest (πανεραphanera). Opposed to “hidden” (κρυπταkrupta). Ancient writers were fond of lists of vices and virtues. Cf. Stalker‘s sermons on The Seven Cardinal Virtues and The Seven Deadly Sins. There are more than seven in this deadly list in Galatians 5:19-21. He makes the two lists in explanation of the conflict in Galatians 5:17 to emphasize the command in Galatians 5:13. There are four groups in Paul‘s list of manifest vices:

(1)Sensual sins like fornication (πορνειαporneia prostitution, harlotry), uncleanness (ακαταρσιαakatharsia moral impurity), lasciviousness (ασελγειαaselgeia wantonness), sexual vice of all kinds prevailed in heathenism.

(2)Idolatry (ειδωλατρειαeidōlatreia worship of idols) and witchcraft (παρμακειαpharmakeia from παρμακονpharmakon a drug, the ministering of drugs), but the sorcerers monopolized the word for a while in their magical arts and used it in connection with idolatry. In N.T. only here and Revelation 18:23. See note on Acts 19:19 περιεργαperierga curious arts.

(3)Personal relations expressed by eight words, all old words, sins of the spirit, like enmities (εχτραιexthrai personal animosities), strife (εριςeris rivalry, discord), jealousies (ζηλοςzēlos or ζηλοιzēloi MSS. vary, our very word), wraths (τυμοιthumoi stirring emotions, then explosions), factions (εριτειαιeritheiai from εριτοςerithos day labourer for hire, worker in wool, party spirit), divisions (διχοστασιαιdichostasiai splits in two, διχαdicha and στασιςstasis), heresies (αιρεσειςhaireseis the very word, but really choosings from αιρεομαιhaireomai preferences), envyings (πτονοιphthonoi feelings of ill-will). Surely a lively list.

(4)Drunkenness (μεταιmethai old word and plural, drunken excesses, in N.T. only here and Luke 21:34; Romans 13:13), revellings (κωμοιkōmoi old word also for drinking parties like those in honour of Bacchus, in N.T. only here and Romans 13:13; 1 Peter 4:3).

And such like (και τα ομοια τουτοιςkai ta homoia toutois). And the things like these (associative instrumental τουτοιςtoutois after ομοιαhomoia like). It is not meant to be exhaustive, but it is representative.

Verse 21

Forewarn (προλεγωprolegō) - did forewarn (προειπονproeipon). Paul repeats his warning given while with them. He did his duty then. Gentile churches were peculiarly subject to these sins. But who is not in danger from them?

Practise (πρασσοντεςprassontes). ΠρασσωPrassō is the verb for habitual practice (our very word, in fact), not ποιεωpoieō for occasional doing. The habit of these sins is proof that one is not in the Kingdom of God and will not inherit it.

Verse 22

The fruit of the Spirit (ο καρπος του πνευματοςho karpos tou pneumatos). Paul changes the figure from works (εργαerga) in Galatians 5:19 to fruit as the normal out-cropping of the Holy Spirit in us. It is a beautiful tree of fruit that Paul pictures here with nine luscious fruits on it:

Love (αγαπηagapē). Late, almost Biblical word. First as in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, which see for discussion as superior to πιλιαphilia and ερωςerōs

Joy (χαραchara). Old word. See note on 1 Thessalonians 1:6.

Peace (eirēnē). See note on 1 Thessalonians 1:1.

Long-suffering (makrothumia). See 2 Corinthians 6:6.

Kindness (ειρηνηchrēstotēs). See 2 Corinthians 6:6.

Goodness (μακροτυμιαagathōsunē). See note on 2 Thessalonians 1:11.

Faithfulness (pistis). Same word as “faith.” See Matthew 23:23; 1 Corinthians 13:7, 1 Corinthians 13:13.

Meekness (prautēs). See 1 Corinthians 4:21; note on 2 Corinthians 10:1.

Temperance (χρηστοτηςegkrateia). See Acts 24:25. Old word from egkratēs one holding control or holding in. In N.T. only in these passages and 2 Peter 1:6. Paul has a better list than the four cardinal virtues of the Stoics (temperance, prudence, fortitude, justice), though they are included with better notes struck. Temperance is alike, but kindness is better than justice, long-suffering than fortitude, love than prudence.

Verse 24

Crucified the flesh (την σαρκα εσταυρωσανtēn sarka estaurōsan). Definite event, first aorist active indicative of σταυροωstauroō as in Galatians 2:19 (mystical union with Christ). Paul uses σαρχsarx here in the same sense as in Galatians 5:16, Galatians 5:17, Galatians 5:19, “the force in men that makes for evil” (Burton).

With (συνsun). “Together with,” emphasizing “the completeness of the extermination of this evil force” and the guarantee of victory over one‘s passions and dispositions toward evil.

Verse 25

By the Spirit let us also walk (πνευματι και στοιχωμενpneumati kai stoichōmen). Present subjunctive (volitive) of στοιχεωstoicheō “Let us also go on walking by the Spirit.” Let us make our steps by the help and guidance of the Spirit.

Verse 26

Let us not be (μη γινωμεταmē ginōmetha). Present middle subjunctive (volitive), “Let us cease becoming vainglorious” (κενοδοχοιkenodoxoi), late word only here in N.T. (κενοσ δοχαkenosαλληλους προκαλουμενοιdoxa). Once in Epictetus in same sense.

Provoking one another (προκαλεωallēlous prokaloumenoi). Old word παροχυσμονprokaleō to call forth, to challenge to combat. Only here in N.T. and in bad sense. The word for “provoke” in Hebrews 10:24 is πτονουντεςparoxusmon (our “paroxysm”).

Envying (πτονοςphthonountes). Old verb from phthonos Only here in N.T.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Galatians 5:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

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