The Book of Galatians - "Searchlights from the Word" by G. Campbell Morgan.
To reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him.
The experience which the Apostle thus described was at once the inspiration of his preaching, and the secret of that conviction as to the authority of his Gospel which called forth this letter. To him the Gospel was infinitely more than a doctrine, a truth heard from others, and intellectually accepted. It was his very life, and the deepest thing therein. In this first chapter he made three references to his experience, which are revealing. First he wrote of a "revelation of Jesus Christ." Then, in our verse, of a revelation of "His Son in me." And finally he declared that the churches of Judaea glorified God in him. The first of these references was undoubtedly to that wondrous hour in which Jesus of Nazareth was unveiled before his astonished soul, as risen, and active in the affairs of His people. The experience on the road to Damascus was one of revolution. To this man the whole scheme of things was turned upside down. Then, in the quiet seclusion of those waiting days in Damascus, that which had been an arresting and blinding revelation from without, became a convincing and quickening revelation within his own soul. Christ was unveiled within him. That is the secret of preaching. A consciousness of Christ which is purely objective is fundamental, but it is not enough to equip any man for preaching. There must be this deeper knowledge of Christ, the subjective unveiling of Him within the life. A man who knows much about Christ, may talk about Him, a man who knows Him, can preach Him.
If righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nought.
Dr. Rendel Harris has aptly described this letter of the great Apostle to the Gentiles as an "explosive epistle." Its force lies more in the truths it declares than in the way in which they were stated; yet the method of statement is most arresting. Perhaps in the course of the whole argument, nothing is more tremendous in the impact upon the mind than this superlative declaration. If the Law, which does reveal righteousness, is able to produce righteousness, then the death of Christ was a mistake; it was unnecessary; He died to accomplish something which might have been accomplished in some other way. Those then who hold that a man may reach righteousness through the Law are compelled either to get rid of the whole conception of the atoning death of the Lord, or to say that God was mistaken. Moreover, if the Law could not make righteous, and the death of Christ is able to do so, then why superimpose upon faith in that which is able, the rites and ceremonies of that which is without force? That is the whole case of the letter; and it is that truth, so forcefully stated, which has made this letter the high explosive which more than once in the history of the Church has shattered false doctrine as to the way of salvation. It was Martin Luther's weapon. Because the heart of man is ever prone to add something of human device to the Divine provision, it is well to keep this writing at hand, for its power is as great as ever. Are ye so foolish?
Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now perfected in the flesh?
In these questions we have the principle for which the Apostle contended, applied to the processional aspect of Christian experience. If Christ did not die for nought - that is, if we indeed are admitted to the possibility of righteousness through faith in Him, and through that alone - then is it to be supposed that we shall be able to realize in actual experience the things of righteousness by going back to those methods which were unable to create the possibility or to communicate the power of righteousness? The first phase of salvation is justification; that is, the reconciliation of our essential spirit-life to God. There we begin our Christian life. Is it reasonable to suppose, that departing from that central and initial way, we may now hope to make progress in the Christian life and experience by employing the methods of the flesh? Is it so, that any activity of the flesh whatever can strengthen the life of the Spirit? It is inconceivable. And yet here is the place where repeatedly the children of God have been carried away. All sorts of fleshly devices have been resorted to in the vain and foolish hope that activity of the flesh tends to strengthening of the spirit. It is ever so. The process is exactly opposite. The spirit controls the flesh, employs it, commands it, sanctifies it and thus makes it the instrument of service to others. Therefore the process of the soul to perfection is ever by faith, a spiritual activity; and never by works, a fleshly method.
My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you.
Here suddenly, amid the anger, the satire, the severity of the letter, the deepest thing in the soul of the Apostle breaks through in a flash of revealing glory. It is that of his tenderness, his compassion, his love. He was angry, but why? Because the danger, threatening them, threatened the highest and best things in their lives. He was satirical, but why? Because by such a method he was likely to arouse them from the false lethargy which resulted from resting in rites and ceremonies, instead of exercising faith in Christ. He was severe, but why? Because the courses they were pursuing under false teachers were subversive of their very life in Christ. All the anger, the satire, the severity of the letter, resulted from his profound love for them. It was all the outcome of the care of the churches which he carried daily. How deep and strong that was, is revealed by the daring of this figure. It is the most sacred figure of motherhood. He was "in travail" for them! How searching is this gleam of light! How it rebukes us and instructs us! As we consider it, we are made ashamed of any bitterness which may at any time have entered into our defence of truth. Anger, satire, severity, yes, these are proper things, providing always that no element of personal bitterness enters our heart. The peril is so subtle that we need ever to watch and pray that we may be delivered from falling in this matter. It is only as our love of our fellow-disciples is kept alive, and our solicitude for their spiritual well-being is the one and only motive of our action, that we have the right or the ability to defend the truth.
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word ...
The Law is the revelation of God's way of life for men. In it are many words. Its statutes and judgments and commandments are multiplied. They deal with every phase of human life - personal, social, religious. They condition all its attitudes and activities - of food, of raiment, of dwelling-places, of health, of sanitation. They cover all its relationships - political, economic, family. They arrange its worship, make its calendar, define its responsibilities. In short, there is nothing in the whole course of life, from cradle to coffin, that is not dealt with in some of its many words. Behind all these words there are ten; the words of the Decalogue, gathering up within themselves the whole of the others, in broad and general statements, so perfectly that if men will live according to their revelation, personally and socially, they will live in the ideal kingdom. All this Paul knew, none better than he. And yet he declared that "the whole law is fulfilled in one word." There is one word, which includes the ten, as the ten include the many. And that word is LOVE! In saying this, Paul was only saying what his Lord had said before him. The only difference is that here he took for granted the first activity of love, which is Godward, and named only the resultant one, which is man-ward. Who will challenge the truth of this saying? It is impossible that any man who obeys only the law of love in his thought and speech and deed should break either of the ten words, or come short in obedience to the many.
Henceforth let no man trouble me ...
There is a fine touch of independence in these words, a claim that the writer is exempt from interference, that if any shall break in upon his quietness, the intruder is guilty of misdemeanour. After reading the letter, with its clear logic and its splendid passion, we feel that he has won the right to write thus. And yet it is not upon that ground that he bases his claim. His ground is that he bears branded on his body the stigmata of Jesus! There has been much mystical interpretation of these words of Paul, which may be warranted. I believe that the reference was a very simple and very actual one. In his proclamation of the Gospel committed to him, he had given his physical powers without reserve, and in the process had been actually bruised and broken by the brutality of those who had opposed him. He carried the actual scars of this brutality, and knew actual physical weakness as the result of his devotion. These all were to him the true stigmata of Jesus, sweet and terrible companions of the very wounds of his Lord. Let them appeal to men to recognize his right not to be troubled. And so his appeal finally was to the Gospel which was thus evidenced, as to its compelling and sustaining power, by the very sufferings through which he had passed, of which these scars were the sure signs. It is really a very keen word this. Have we any right to claim exemption from the troubling of men, such as Paul had? What stigmata do we carry about with us that speak of suffering or deprivation, or limitation, resulting from our persistent and passionate devotion to the Gospel of the eternal grace?