You see how large a letter I have written to you with my own hand.…
I. HIS HANDWRITING. "See with how large letters I have written unto you with mine own hand." He seems to intimate that not merely the following words, but, against his usual custom, the whole Epistle, was in his own handwriting. This was to be interpreted as a manifestation of his interest in them in connection with the importance of the occasion. He also intimates that he used large characters. It cannot be imagined that his intention in doing so, and in calling attention to it, was to emphasize his instructions. It was rather to be interpreted as an appeal to them in connection with his defective vision which necessitated the use of large characters.
II. THE SPIRIT OF THE JUDAIZING TEACHERS.
1. They desired to appear well for their own interest. "As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh they compel you to be circumcised; only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ." He does not mention the Judaizing teachers by name, but he graphically describes them. They did not care for reality; what they cared for was to make a fair show. And, though it was to make a fair show in religion, that did not remove it from the sphere of the flesh. It was still self that was the actuating principle. If they had presented the cross of Christ in its simplicity, as the apostle seems to imply they were free in their conscience to have done, they would have offended their unbelieving countrymen, and would have been subjected to persecution from them. The carnal, self-interested way in which they got over the offence of the cross was to insist on the circumcision of the Gentile converts.
2. Their false glorying. "For not even they who receive circumcision do themselves keep the Law; but they desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh." They were the party of the circumcision, not merely because they were circumcised themselves, but because they made circumcision a prominent article in their teaching. They had not the zeal that might have been expected of them for the Law; for they were faulty in their own keeping of it, feeling it to be burdensome to their flesh. They displayed their zeal in proselytizing. They hoped to hold themselves up to the admiration of their countrymen in the numbers, not that had undergone a saving change, but that, through their influence, had received the mark of circumcision in their flesh.
III. HIS SPIRIT AS CONTRASTED WITH THAT OF THE JUDAIZERS.
1. His glorying. "But far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world."
(1) He gloried in the cross. By the cross we are to understand the atoning death of our Lord Jesus Christ. By glorying in the cross we are to understand that he not only trusted in it for his own salvation, and admired it himself, but that he held it up for the trust and admiration of others. The cross is to be gloried in as a marvellous exhibition of the Divine love. It was God not sparing his Son, but delivering him up for the salvation of men. If love is to be measured by sacrifice, then it was a love that made infinite sacrifice. The cross is to be gloried in as a marvellous exhibition of the Divine righteousness. In default of man being able to make satisfaction for his sin unless in his own destruction, it was God coming forward in Christ and making satisfaction for sin by paying its utmost penalty. The cross is to be gloried in as a marvellous exhibition of the Divine power. It was God in Christ conquering the kingdom of Satan, showing himself stronger than the evil of man's heart. The cross is to be gloried in as a marvellous exhibition of the Divine wisdom. It was God showing how he could be just, and yet the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus; showing how he could attract the sinner to himself, and yet condemn his sin.
(2) He gloried especially in the cross because of its effecting changed relations to the world. By the world we are to understand the sphere in which the principles of the flesh find their manifestation. The cross crucified the world to him. He condemned it and tore himself from it because of its antagonism to God. He was independent of its favours and pleasures, for he had better within himself, in the love and approval of God, and in all the joys of sonship. The cross crucified him to the world. It condemned him in turn, and stood aloof from him as a lost man, and only thought of him to hate him and persecute him. In this cross, then, with all that it entailed, he gloried, and in this alone. Far be it from him to hold up anything else for the trust and admiration of men.
2. His regard for reality. "For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature." To him it was of no importance that men should be outwardly marked. What was of importance was that they should be inwardly changed, Numbers he would have rejoiced in if they represented saved men.
IV. AS HIS SPIRIT WAS SO HE BLESSED. "And as many as shall walk by this rule, peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God." He invokes blessing on all who would walk by the rule laid down, i.e. who would glory only in the cross of Christ, and would seek reality and not appearances. He invokes blessing on them in the usual form, only putting peace before mercy. All such, and not those whom the Judaizers blessed, were to be regarded as the Israel of God.
V. His CLAIM TO BE UNMOLESTED. "From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear branded on my body the marks of Jesus." A general who has seen long service and has received many scars may reasonably claim to be relieved from future service. That was not Paul's claim. Hard service had a singular charm for him. But he thought that he had received scars enough to place his relationship to Christ as his servant and apostle henceforth beyond all doubt. The slave had branded on his body the name of the Master to whom he belonged. So in his past hardships he had as it were the name of Jesus branded on him. Henceforth, whatever men might do to him, let them not molest him by raising doubt as to the Master to whom he belonged.
VI. HIS SPECIAL AND FINAL BLESSING FOR THE GALATIANS. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen" He blesses them from the centre of their being. He was so charged with indignation when he commenced the Epistle that he was long before he could address them as brethren. Now he is so charged with affection that, putting" brethren" into an unusual position, he makes it the last word that shall linger in their memory when they have completed the reading of the Epistle. We have no evidence of the immediate effect which this Epistle had upon the Galatians. It is painful to read of heresies which, at a subsequent period, were rife among them. It is, however, pleasing to know that in the Diocletian persecution in the beginning of the fourth century, and in the "attempt to galvanize the expiring form of heathen devotion in Galatia," by Julian the apostate, there were not's few Galatian martyrs. It cannot be said that there is at the present day within the district any representation of Pauline Christianity. The Christian Church has yet to show its indebtedness for this Epistle by going forth in the spirit of the great preacher of the cross to reconquer Galatian soil for Christ. - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.