You see how large a letter I have written to you with my own hand.…
Paul has been urging the Galatians to do good to all men, for now is the seed-time of philanthropy, and the harvest will be afterwards. And now he appeals to them by the "large letters" of this unique Epistle, which seems to have been the only one which was a complete autograph. Though penmanship was a trouble to him, he was yet anxious to do for these Galatians what good he could in the spirit he has been enforcing. But philanthropy has its counterfeits. Consequently he warns them once again against those teachers of ceremonialism, who would have the heathen converts to try to save themselves by Jewish ceremonies. These are merely making tools of them to save themselves. They wish to escape persecution for Christianity. Paul, on the other hand, glories in the cross, and carries in his body the marks of the Crucified One. The following thoughts are here suggested: -
I. THE TOLERATION EXTENDED BY THE HEATHEN WORLD TO JUDAISM. The heathen world was largely latitudinarian. The idea was comprehensive. All gods were to be put in the Pantheon. But among the idolatries of the East, Judaism, a spiritual worship, got a footing. Its synagogues were built side by side with the heathen temples, and they were allowed to worship without molestation. Their proselytism was trifling; their missionary enterprise was unworthy of the name. The heathen could not fear them. Hence their immunity from persecution.
II. THE JEWISH TEACHERS THOUGHT THAT, IF THEY MADE ALL CHRISTIAN CONVERTS JEWISH PROSELYTES, THEY WOULD SECURE CHRISTIANITY FROM PERSECUTION. They did not want to be persecuted for the cross. They wanted to avail themselves of the toleration of Judaism and merge Christianity in it. An emasculated Christianity might escape the persecution which, in its naked simplicity, it was fitted to secure. It was a policy of compromise, begotten of cowardice and fear. Pride went along with it. It would be a grand thing to count up so many converts to Judaism and glory in the growth of circumcision. It was a selfish stroke under the guise of philanthropy.
III. THE ANTAGONISM INDICATED BY THE CROSS. NOW, the cross of Christ is the expression of the antagonism of the world to the self-sacrificing Philanthropist who thus perished. It could not and would not tolerate the person who would not save himself when he had the power. It believes only in those who can take care of number one. As soon, then, as a man like Paul gets into unison with the crucified Christ, as soon as the cross becomes an experience within, and a self-sacrificing spirit takes hold of a man for the sake of doing good to others, that moment the world and he become antagonistic. They cannot get on together. The world is crucified to the person and he to the world. Each wishes to put the other out of the way, and as contemptuously as possible. As soon, therefore, as the world discovered what Christianity meant, that it meant a brotherhood of self-sacrificing philanthropy, it took alarm, for it saw that, if Christianity were not put down, it would put worldliness down. Hence the drawback of persecution attaching to the Christian faith.
IV. IN THIS UNWORLDLY CROSS PAUL GLORIED. He appreciated its efficacy. He recognized its claims. He allowed it to make him unworldly. Hence he made it the sum and substance of his teaching. He preached "Christ crucified" continually. Circumcision was nothing in which to glory. It was a carnal ordinance which might be very carnally administered, and a mere stepping-stone for pride. But the cross of Jesus was an object in which to glory. Its spirit was so unworldly, so self-sacrificing, so noble, that nothing in this world was so worthy of our interest and glorying.
V. HE HAD CHRIST'S HAND UPON HIS BODY. Now, if a man goes in for self-sacrifice, as Paul did, under the spell of Christ's cross, his body will soon show it. There can be no pampering of the flesh. A spiritual soul soon makes the tenement enshrining it to transmit some of its glory. Paul shows the marks of self-sacrifice upon his person. Christ had made him his slave, and put the brand upon him. As Christ's prisoner, he had the seals of office in his person. Consequently, no man need trouble him or try to move him away from his standard, the cross. It is a noble ending to this fine Epistle. May it make all its students to glory in the cross also! - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.