Catholic Encyclopedia
Church Fathers
Classics Library
Church Documents
Prayer Requests
Ray of Hope
Social Doctrine

An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2


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.


1. Brethren, should any one, owing either to the seduction of the false teachers, or, the strength of temptation, chance to be surprised in any of the above mentioned faults, particularly heresy or apostacy: let these amongst you, who are strong and well instructed in the faith, and live according to the dictates of God’s Holy Spirit, instruct and restore him to spiritual health, but with all mildness and humility, keeping before your eyes your own weakness, which renders you liable to commit sin and yield to temptation.

2. With compassionate sympathy, correct those who have fallen, in such a way as if their sins and infirmities were your own and borne by yourselves, and thus you will accomplish the Law of Christ, viz., his peculiar precept of charity.

3. For, if any person form a high idea of his own excellence—to which his harsh treatment of his infirm brother may be traced—such a person, in truth, seduces himself, since, in reality, he is of himself but nothing.

4. Let each one try and examine his life and actions according to the rules of faith and morality, and not mind comparing them with the works of his neighbour, and thus he will have cause for glorying in his own work, on account of its real merit, and not from the contrast with the failings and imperfections of others

5. For in the just judgment of God, each one shall have to bear the full weight of his own sins, without any extenuation from a contrast with others.

6. Let him who receives instruction in the doctrine of faith, share with his spiritual teacher, all his tem poral substance.

7. Be not deceived in alleging vain excuses of in ability to comply with this natural precept of supporting your teachers. God, who is to judge you in such matters, will not be mocked.

8. For whatsoever things a man shall have sown, the same shall he reap. For, whosoever shall indulge in forbidden pleasures, which he shall have cast as seed into the flesh, shall reap of this same flesh the harvest of death and corruption. But whosoever shall have performed spiritual works, of which the grace of God’s spirit is the principle, and thus shall have sown in the spirit, shall reap of the same spirit the harvest of eternal and incorruptible life.

9. But in performing good works, let us unceasingly persevere; for, we shall reap the fruit of our good works, in due time, provided we cease not, but persevere.

10. Wherefore, whilst the present life, the seed-time for good works, lasts, let us do good towards all mankind, but let us make the faithful fellow-members of the Church, the special objects of our benevolence.

11. You can judge of the sincerity of my affection and concern for you, from the length of this Epistle, in writing which I have departed from my mode of writing my other Epistles; for, from the kind of letters or characters employed, you may perceive that I have myself written the entire of this with my own hand.

12. Those men, who are anxious to uphold a good character with their countrymen and relatives, viz., the Jews, and to please them have recourse to threats, and motives of conscience, in order to induce you to become circumcised; their real object, however, is to evade the persecution practised against those who preach the cross of Christ.

13. For, neither do they themselves, who are circumcised, and urge you to be circumcised, observe the law; their motive in wishing to have you circumcised is, to have matter for glorying with the Jews in your circumcision, as if you were converted by them to the Jewish religion.

14. 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.

15. 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.

16. 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.

17. 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.

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


1. “Overtaken,” i.e., suddenly surprised, “in any fault.” i.e., in any of the faults termed in the preceding chapter, “works of the flesh.” He particularly refers to the sin of yielding to the teaching of the false teachers respecting the legal ceremonies. “Spiritual,” refers to the better instructed in the faith amongst them. “Instruct!” the Greek word, καταρτιζετε, means to restore such a person to sound faith, and to grace; the idea is borrowed from restoring a disjointed limb to its proper place in the body. In the present instance, this is to be done by timely instruction and correction. “Considering thyself;” he employs the singular number in order to bring the matter home to the conscience of each one; it is less harsh to admonish them individually, than to address the entire body. “In the spirit of mildness.” This regards not the correction of such sinners, as are obstinate in sin; for, these latter should be treated with rigour, as the Apostle himself wished that Titus would treat the Cretans.—(Titus, 1).

2. “Burdens” refer to sins of every description, especially to the sin of apostacy. “They bear one another’s burdens” by the true spirit of sympathy, by compassionating each other, and instructing each other in the spirit of meekness. “Bear,” βασταζετε, means, to bear a burden placed on one. “And so you shall fulfil.” The common Greek text has, αναπληρωσατε, so fulfil. The future, ανεπληρωσετε, is found in the chief MSS.

3. He points out the source of the harsh treatment of our weaker brethren; it is pride, or the false opinion of our own superior excellence. The Apostle assails this vice, and asserts, that left to themselves, and unaided by God’s grace, the firmest amongst them could be nothing in the order of salvation. “Deceiveth,” φρεναπατᾶ, deceives his own mind.

4. In this verse, he alludes to a certain class of men who, like the Pharisee in the Gospel, boasted of their own good works, from the contrast with their weaker brethren. Non sum sicut ceteri.—(Luke, 18:11). In this passage, we are furnished with most excellent instructions regarding the mode of administering correction to our infirm brethren. We should, as much as possible, excuse them. Their fault may have been the result of sudden passion or violent temptation. They may have been “overtaken” in it. We should “instruct” them and restore them to grace with the greatest meekness. Correction being of itself bitter and repugnant to our corrupt nature, should be rendered as sweet as possible, both in word and manner. It should merely insinuate the fault and extenuate it as much as possible. It should carry with it a due consideration of our own frailty, both as regards the past—did we ever do so ourselves? the present—are we subject to the same failing? and the future—what shall become of ourselves hereafter, in the same circumstances? This is the neighbour’s day for sinning, to-morrow shall be mine, said an ancient Father. How many are permitted by God to fall into sin, in punishment of their undue severity towards the fallen? Cassian (Collat. 2, chap. 13), mentions a frightful instance of this, in the lives of the ancient Fathers. We should so sympathize with our sinning brethren, as if we were bearing their sins on ourselves. We should guard against pride, like the Pharisee, on account of the misdeeds of others; and in judging of our own actions, we should only think of the just and tremendous judgment of God, in which they shall be examined.

6. “Let him that is instructed,” &c. In the Greek it runs literally thus: κοινωνειτω δὲ ὁ κατηχούμενος τὸν λόγον τῷ κατηχοῦντι, let him who is catechised in the word, communicate, to his catechist, &c., i.e., make his spiritual instructor a sharer in all his temporal substance. The Apostle prescribes this, lest his reproof of the “spiritual” men, among whom were to be reckoned their instructors, should alienate from them the affections of their disciples, and thus cause them to be deprived of the necessary support. Catechetical, or viva voce instruction, was the method of imparting religious knowledge adopted by the Apostles. It is the fittest and most efficacious. Woe to the pastor of souls, who neglects it!

7. Some interpreters connect this with verse 4, thus: “Be not deceived,” in judging of yourselves by the defects of others; for, “God is not mocked,” and this latter connexion well accords with the following verse.

8. After having exhorted those, who received instruction in religion, to contribute liberally towards the support of their teachers, he, in this verse, exhorts all Christians to the performance of good works. In this manner he employs the familiar metaphors of the seed and the harvest. He looks upon the “flesh” and “the Spirit,” or the Holy Ghost, as fields in which seeds of a different kind are deposited, from which a crop of the same kind shall spring. “In the flesh … in the spirit,” are read in the Greek, εὶς τὴν σάρκα … εἰς τὸ πνεῦμα, into the flesh … into the spirit.

9. According to the Vulgate, we are exhorted in this verse to persevere in the performance of good works. “Let us not fail.” We are told, that perseverance is a necessary condition for eternal life. According to the Greek, we are recommended to perform good works with cheerful alacrity, not becoming faint-hearted; because we shall in due time reap the fruit of our good works for a never-ending duration. “Not failing,” may mean in the Greek, “not relaxing” (from fatigue).

10. “Whilst we have time,” i.e., during the present life; for “the night shall come, when no man can work.”—(John, 9:4).

11. The interpretation in the Pharaphrase, which insinuates, that, whereas the Apostle availed himself of an amanuensis, in his other Epistles, and merely subscribed or prefixed his name to them, he wrote the entire of this with his own hand, is the one more commonly adopted; others understand the words to mean, that the characters in which this Epistle is written, show them to be written in his own handwriting. Their imperfect form proves them to be written by one who is not well versed in writing the Greek characters. The words πηλικοις γραμμασιν, may be rendered, with what large characters or letters. The former interpretation is, however, the more probable.

12. “For as many as desire,” &c. “For” is wanting in the Greek; and it appears indeed, to be redundant in our version. “To please.” The Greek word, ευπροσωπησαι means, to show a good countenance. The Apostle now, in order to withdraw the Galatians from the legal ceremonies, employs a final argument founded on the base motives by which the false teachers were influenced in urging them to be circumcised. The real motives of these hirelings was, to escape the persecution with which the preachers of the cross of Christ were visited.

13. And also to have matter for glorying with their friends and countrymen, the Jews, in the conversion of the Galatians, as proselytes to Judaism, through their exertions. These, and not zeal for the law, which they themselves violated, were their real motives.

14. 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.

15. 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.

16. “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.

17. “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).

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

Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com