Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Galatians 5:6

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.
New American Standard Version

Adam Clarke Commentary

For in Jesus Christ - By the dispensation of the Gospel all legal observances, as essential to salvation, are done away; and uncircumcision, or the Gentile state, contributes as much to salvation as circumcision or the Jewish state; they are both equally ineffectual; and nothing now avails in the sight of God but that faith δι 'αγαπης ενεργουμενη, which is made active, or energetic, by love. God acknowledges no faith, as of the operation of his Spirit, that is not active or obedient; but the principle of all obedience to God, and beneficence to man, is love; therefore faith cannot work unless it be associated with love. Love to God produces obedience to his will: love to man worketh no ill; but, on the contrary, every act of kindness. Faith which does not work by love is either circumcision or uncircumcision, or whatever its possessor may please to call it; it is, however, nothing that will stand him in stead when God comes to take away his soul. It availeth nothing. This humble, holy, operative, obedient Love, is the grand touchstone of all human creeds and confessions of faith. Faith without this has neither soul nor operation; in the language of the Apostle James, it is dead, and can perform no function of the spiritual life, no more than a dead man can perform the duties of animal or civil life.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

For in Jesus Christ - In the religion which Christ came to establish.

Neither circumcision … - It makes no difference whether a man is circumcised or not. He is not saved because he is circumcised, nor is he condemned because he is not. The design of Christianity is to abolish these rites and ceremonies, and to introduce a way of salvation that shall be applicable to all mankind alike; see the Galatians 3:28, note; 1 Corinthians 7:19, note; compare Romans 2:29.

But faith which worketh by love - Faith that evinces its existence by love to God, and benevolence to people. It is not a mere intellectual belief, but it is that which reaches the heart, and controls the affections. It is not a dead faith, but it is that which is operative, and which is seen in Christian kindness and affection. It is not mere belief of the truth, or mere orthodoxy, but it is that which produces trite attachment to others. A mere intellectual assent to the truth may leave the heart cold and unaffected; mere orthodoxy, however bold and self-confident, and “sound,” may not be inconsistent with contentions, and strifes, and logomachies, and divisions. The true faith is that which is seen in benevolence, in love to God, in love to all who bear the Christian name; in a readiness to do good to all mankind. This shows that the heart is affected by the faith that is held; and this is the nature and design of all genuine religion. Tyndale renders this, “faith, which by love is mighty in operation.”

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Galatians 5:6

For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

The order of gracious exercises in the renewed heart

All evangelical writers and preachers maintain that none can be real Christians without exercising faith, repentance, and love; but they differ widely in respect to the proper order of these gracious affections. Some place faith before love and repentance, and some place love before repentance and faith.

I. Let us consider the order in which holy exercises take place in a renewed sinner. The Spirit of God in renewing, sanctifying, or converting a sinner, does not give him any new natural power, faculty, or principle of action; but only gives him new affections or exercises of heart. It is true, indeed, the Holy Spirit commonly awakens and convinces a sinner, before He converts him. But as both sin and holiness consist in free, voluntary exercises, so the Divine Spirit, in converting sinner, only turns him from sinful to holy exercises. Having premised this, I proceed to consider the order in which the Spirit produces the first gracious affections. If love be distinct from repentance, and repentance distinct from faith, which cannot be reasonably denied, then one of these affections must be exercised before another, in a certain order. They cannot all be exercised together.

1. And here it is easy to see that love must be before either repentance or faith. Pure, holy, disinterested love, which is diametrically opposite to all selfishness, is the essence of all true holiness; and, of consequence, there can be no holy affection prior to the love of God being shed abroad in the heart.

2. The next fruit of the Spirit is repentance. As soon as the renewed sinner loves God supremely, he must loathe and abhor himself for hating, opposing, and dishonouring such a holy and amiable Being. As repentance follows love, so faith follows both love and repentance. When the sinner loves, he will repent; and when he repents, he will exercise not merely a speculative, but a saving faith. It is morally impossible that he should feel his need of a Saviour, until he sees and feels that God would be righteous and amiable in sending men to destruction.

II. The importance of representing these first exercises of the renewed heart in the order i have mentioned.

1. Unless we place love before faith and repentance, we cannot reconcile regeneration with the Divine law, which requires all men to love God immediately and supremely. If we say that faith is the first gracious exercise, then we virtually say that men ought to believe the gospel before they love God; which is the same as to say that it is not the duty of sinners to obey the, first and great command, until they become true believers in Christ.

2. It is of importance to represent love as before repentance and faith, in order to make it appear that sanctification is before justification and the only proper evidence of it. Those who place faith before love and repentance, suppose that men are justified before they are renewed or sanctified. They suppose that saving faith consists in a man’s believing that he is justified and entitled to eternal life without any evidence from Scripture, sense, or reason.

3. It is absolutely necessary to place love before repentance and faith, in order to distinguish true religion from false. All true religion essentially consists in pure, holy, disinterested love; and all false religion essentially consists in interested, mercenary, selfish love. Now those who place faith before love and repentance, make all religion selfish; because, upon their supposition, all religious affections flow from a belief of their being elected and entitled to eternal life. But if we place supreme love to God, for what He is in Himself, before faith, then all the gracious exercises which flow from it will be holy and disinterested affections.


1. If the first exercises of renewed sinners always take place in the same order, then all real saints have always had precisely the same kind of religious experience.

2. If the Holy Spirit, in converting sinners, always produces love to God before faith in Christ, then it is extremely erroneous to represent faith as previous to love in the renewed heart. This is the greatest and most prevailing error among those who believe in expert-mental religion.

3. If there can be no true experimental religion but what originates from that supreme love to God which is before faith in Christ, then there is ground to fear that there is a great deal of false religion among all denominations of Christians. Finally, this subject teaches all who have entertained a hope of having experienced a saving change, the great importance of examining themselves, whether they have ever exercised that precious faith which flows from supreme love to God, (N. Emmons, D. D.)

Prevailing faith

I. What is this faith?

1. It is not a mere creed-holding. Though the creed be true, it may not be true to you, if you just repeat it and put it away like a paper in a pigeon-hole. No use if it does not influence your heart and affect your life.

2. It is trust. As creatures we look up to the great Father of spirits; as sinners we trust for the pardon of our sins to the atonement of Christ; as being weak and feeble we trust to the power of the Holy Spirit to make us holy and to keep us so; we venture our eternal interests in the vessel of free grace, content to sink or swim with it. We rely upon God in Christ. We hang upon Christ as the vessel hangs upon the nail.

II. Why is faith selected as the way of salvation?

1. No other way is possible. The road of good works is blocked up by our past sins, and it is sure to be further blocked up by future sins: we ought, therefore, to rejoice that God has commended to us the open road of faith.

2. God has chosen the way of faith, that salvation might be by grace. All idea of our own merit is thus shut out.

3. That there may be no boasting.

4. It is a way open to the most unlearned. However little you may know, you know that you have sinned; know, then, that Jesus has come to put away sin, and that there is life in a look at the crucified One.

III. How does faith operate?

1. It touches the mainspring of our nature by creating love within the soul.

2. It puts us into a new relation. No longer servants, but sons.

3. It creates agreement with the Divine will. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

What makes a Christian: circumcision or faith

Mistake to suppose the Primitive Church can be regarded as a pattern. Apostolic teaching they had; -yet they were only beginners. Just rescued from heathenism, no wonder their spirits long bore the scars of their former bondage. To know what they were like, we must look at the communities gathered by modern missionaries. The same infantile simplicity, the same partial apprehensions of the truth, the same danger of being led astray by the low morality of their heathen kindred, the same openness to strange heresy, the same danger of blending the old with the new, in opinion and practice, beset both. The first theological difference in the early Church illustrates this. It was an attempt to put new wine into old bottles. The Jewish and the Gentile elements did not coalesce. The point round which the strife was waged was not whether Gentiles might come into the Church. That was conceded by the fiercest Judaisers. But it was whether they could come in as Gentiles, without being first incorporated into the Jewish nation by circumcision, and whether they could remain in as Gentiles, without conforming to Jewish ceremonial and law. Those who said “no” were members of the Christian communities, and, being so, they still iasisted that Judaism was to be eternal. Those who said “yes” were mostly Gentiles, headed and inspired by St. Paul, a Hebrew of the Hebrews. They believed that Judaism was preparatory, and that its work was done. This Epistle is the memorial of that feud. It is of perennial use, as the tendencies against which it is directed are constant in human nature. The text contains St. Paul’s condensed statement of his whole position in the controversy.

I. The first grand principle contained in these words is that faith working by love makes a Christian (Comp. 1 Corinthians 7:19; Galatians 6:15.)

1. Religion is the harmony of the soul with God, and the conformity of the life to His law. Obedience must be the obedience of a man, and not of his deeds only; it must include the submission of the will and the prostration of the whole nature before God. To be godly is to be godlike. As two stringed instruments may be so tuned to one keynote that, if you strike the one, a faint ethereal echo is heard from the other, which blends undistinguishably with its parent sound; so, drawing near to God, and brought into unison with His mind and will, our responsive spirits vibrate in accord with His, and give forth tones, low and thin indeed, but still repeating the mighty music of heaven.

2. This harmony with God results from love becoming the ruling power of our lives. Love to God is no idle emotion or lazy rapture, no vague sentiment, but the root of all practical goodness, of all strenuous effort, of all virtue, of all praise. That strong tide is meant to drive the busy wheels of life, and to bear precious freightage on its bosom; not to flow away in profitless foam. All the virtues and graces will dwell in our hearts, if Love, their mighty mother, be there.

3. The dominion of love to God in our hearts arises from faith. How can we love Him so long as we are in doubt of His heart, or misconceive His character, as if it were only Power and Wisdom, or awful Severity? Men cannot love an unseen person at all without some very special token of his personal affection for them. It is only when we know and believe the love that God has to us, that we come to cherish any corresponding emotion to Him. Heaven must bend to earth, before earth can rise to heaven. The skies must open and drop down love, ere love can spring in the fruitful fields. And it is only when we look with true trust to that great unveiling of the heart of God which is in Jesus Christ, that our hearts are melted, and all their snows are dissolved into sweet waters, which, freed from their icy chains, can flow with music in their ripple, and fruitfulness along their course, through our otherwise silent and barren lives.

II. But we have to consider also the negative side of the apostle’s words. They affirm that in comparison with the essential--faith, all externals are infinitely unimportant. A general principle. Rites, sacraments, etc., may be helps: nothing more. If religion be the loving devotion of the soul to God, resting upon reasonable faith, then all besides is, at the most, a means which may further it. The test of all acts and forms of Christian worship is, Do they help men to know and feel Christ and His truth? They are but fuel; the flame is loving faith. The only worth of the fuel is to feed the flame. We are joined to God by faith. Whatever strengthens that is precious as a help, but worthless as a substitute.

III. there is a constant tendency to exalt these unimportant externals into the place of faith. So long as men have bodily organizations, there will be need for outward helps. Forms are sure to encroach, to overlay the truth that lies at their root, to become dimly intelligible, or quite unmeaning, and to constitute at last the end instead of the means. Necessary to remember, in using them, that a minute quantity may strengthen, but an overdose will kill. Even freedom from forms may be turned into a bondage.

IV. When an indifferent thing is made into an essential, it ceases to be indifferent, and must be fought against. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The office and operation of faith

The peculiar character of the gospel is, that it shows how a sinner may be justified before God. Yet the generality of Christians are far from entertaining just views of this most fundamental point. They confound the different offices of faith and works. But St. Paul distinguishes them with much accuracy and precision. He invariably declares that our justification is by faith. Yet, though he denies to works the office of justifying, he invariably insists on them as the fruits and evidence of our faith. Nothing can be more decisive than the declaration in the text.

I. We shall explain it.

1. Man is prone to trust in outward rites and[ ceremonies. The Jews trusted in the ordinance of circumcision; some among ourselves think it sufficient Chat they have been baptized, or are communicants.

2. But no outward observances can avail for our salvation.

(a) to obtain man’s applause;

(b) to establish a righteousness of our own;

(a) evil tempers;

(b) vicious appetites.

It cannot, therefore, of itself characterize the true Christian. Nor can it avail anything towards procuring the Divine favour; though, if it proceed from faith and love, it will doubtless be rewarded.

3. That which alone can avail for our acceptance with God is faith. It is by faith that all the saints of old obtained salvation (Romans 4:3; Romans 4:6-7). All the promises of God are made to faith (Mark 16:16; Acts 10:43).

4. Yet this faith must be productive of good works. It is not a mere notional assent to certain doctrines; nor a confident assurance respecting the safety of our own state; but a living, operative principle in the heart.

5. It is, on our part, the bond of union between Christ and our souls; and it cannot but discover itself by works of love.

II. Improve it (2 Timothy 3:16).

1. For the establishment of true doctrine. Let us renounce all confidence in our own works, and rely wholly on the blood and righteousness of Christ.

2. For reproof, i.e., refutation of false doctrine. We are not justified by faith as an operative principle, but simply as uniting us with Christ. Our works do not make our faith to be good or saving, but only prove it to be so.

3. For correction of unrighteous conduct. Let unrighteous Christians put away either their profession or their sins.

4. For instruction in righteousness. Love should operate uniformly, and respect both the bodies and souls of men. Let us abound in it more and more. (Theological Sketch-book.)


Faith is the foundation of the whole spiritual building, whereby we are built on Christ Jesus. It is the root of the whole spiritual life of grace, the ground whereon the soul rests securely, the beginning of our spiritual existence. The cross is not far off, not over the seas, in the Holy Land, nor removed by length of time. Faith sees it close at hand, and clasps it and loves it, and is crucified on it with Him, dying to itself with its Lord, nailed to it, motionless to its own desires, dead to the world, and living to Him. Nor is heaven far off to faith. For where its Lord is, there is heaven. Faith is with Him, present with Him in spirit, though absent in the body; a penitent amid those who, around the Throne, sing “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Faith, in one sense, goes before love, because, unless we believed, we should have none to love. Faith is Divine knowledge. As in human love we cannot love unless we have seen, heard, or in some way known, so, without faith, we cannot know aught of God, or know that there is a God whom to love. Yet in act, faith cannot be without love. “The just,’ says Scripture, ‘shall live by his faith,’ but by a faith which lives. A dead faith cannot give life.” Faith without love is the devils’ faith. For they believe, and tremble. Hearing must come before faith, for “faith cometh by hearing.” But faith cannot for an instant be separated from love. Who is the object of faith? God the Father, who created us, and gave His Son to die for us; God the Son, who became one of us, and by dying, redeemed us; God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth us, and “pours forth love,” which He is, “abroad in our hearts.” We were as stocks and stones without faith; but He died, even “of these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” Are we stocks or stones now, that, having faith, we can believe without loving? Which of His acts of boundless love should we believe without loving? Were it not enough to bear us out of ourselves for love, to transport us, to make us give up our lives for love, to carry us away out of ourselves and of all that we are, to think that for us, earth-worms and defiled, Jesus died? Does not the very name of Jesus make the heart beat, and tremble, and thrill with love? Could a criminal really believe that he had received a full pardon from his injured king, or that the king’s son had suffered to obtain his pardon, and was come to tell it him and forgive him, and not love? Well might he doubt such love. But he could not believe it and not love. Faith and love would enter his soul together. Love is in all true faith, as light and warmth are in the ray of the sun. Light and warmth are in the sun’s ray, and the sun’s ray brings with it light and warmth; not, light and warmth; the sun’s ray: yet, where the sun’s ray is, there are light and warmth, nor can that ray be anywhere without giving light and warmth. Even so, faith it is which brings love, not love, faith; yet faith cannot come into the heart, without bringing with it the glow of love, yea, and the light wherewith we see things Divine. So soon as faith is kindled in the heart, there is the glow of love; and both come from the same Sun of Righteousness, pouring in faith and love together into the heart, and “there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.” In winter, fewer rays come upon any spot of this land from the sun; whence there is then less brightness of light and less glow of heat than in summer; and so the surface of the earth is chilled; and though for a time the frost be melted by that fainter sun, this warmth, coming upon it only for a short time, soon passes away. Even so, there are degrees of faith and love. Yet they may be real faith and love, even when the power of both is lessened, in that the soul does not keep itself or live in the full presence of God. Or, as through a closed window, more light comes than heat, so in some hearts, there may be more of knowledge than of love. And again, as on a cold misty day, when the sun is hidden from our eyes, we are so oppressed by the clamminess of the chill damp upon the surface of our bodies, and by the heavy gloom around, that we scarcely feel the presence of the light and heat; and yet the light and heat are there, else we should be in utter darkness, and our bodies would die; even so, many hearts, at many times, when some mist hides from them the presence of their Lord, feel nothing but their own coldness and numbness, and all seems dark around them, and yet in their very inmost selves they believe and love, else their souls would be dead, and they would be “past feeling,” and they would not pine for more light and love. A dead body is in darkness, and seeth not the light of this world, and has an awful coldness to the touch; yet itself feels not its own coldness, nor knows its own darkness. Even so, the dead soul, being without the life of God, feels not its own death, craves not to love more. For He who is love hath left it, and it hath no power wherewith to desire to love, unless or until the voice of Christ raises it from the dead and awakens it and it hears His voice, and lives. Or think on the great instances of faith in Holy Scripture. Think you not that Abraham loved, as well as believed, when God first spake to him, and called him to give up his country, and his kindred, and his father’s house, and instead of all, God said, “I will bless thee,” and he took God for his all, and “went out, not knowing whither he went,” save that he was following God? And of that great penitent, St. Mary Magdalene, our Lord bears witness that in her there were together love and faith; and for both together, a loving faith, or a “faith working by love,” our Lord tells her, “Thy sins are forgiven.” Or was there not love in the faith of the penitent thief, when he discerned his Saviour by his side, in that marred form, which “had no beauty or comeliness,” “His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men,” and he said, “Lord, remember me in Thy kingdom.” There was humility, which owned that it deserved to be forgotten, and wondrous faith which owned in Him, “the rejected of men,” his Lord and King and God. But there was love too. For love only craves to be remembered. Or think you not that, when God “opened the heart of Lydia, to attend unto the things spoken by Paul,” He poured into her heart which He had opened, love with faith? Faith which loves not, is not faith; it is dead. And what is dead, hath ceased to be. A “dead faith” is a “faith without love.” A dead body is, for the time, until it wholly decays in outward form, like a living body or a body asleep; a dead faith has an outward likeness to a living faith. But as a dead body has no warmth nor power of motion, nor feeling, nor can use any of the powers it once had, nor has them any longer, it can neither taste, nor see, nor hear; so a dead faith is that which has no love, no power to do good works. It perceives not, hears not, tastes not, feels not, the things of God. As love is the life of faith, so with the increase of love, faith increaseth. Even from man towards man, faith and love grow together. The more we love, the more we understand and the more we trust one another. We trust, because we love, and by loving, know God, We can only know God, by loving Him. St. Paul says, “I know in whom I have believed.” Want of love is the cause of all want of faith. Did we fully love God, who could for a moment doubt of Him? But love liveth by good works. Love cannot live torpid. Even in human love, love which never did deeds of love would grow chill and die. We love those most, to whom we do most good. Love is perhaps increased more by doing than by receiving good; at least, by doing good out of the love of God. Acts of love do not prove only that we have a living faith they increase it. But it has been thought, “if faith, on which God holds us righteous, or justifying faith, have love in it, are we not accounted righteous for something m ourselves?” We are justified, or accounted righteous before God, neither for faith nor love, but for the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ alone. And faith and love alike, although in us, are not of us; both are alike the gift of God. But this gift, whether of faith or love, is so given, that it is with us to receive it. We come to God by faith and love. But “no man cometh unto Me,” saith our Lord, “except the Father, which hath sent Me, draw him.” “Believe, and thou comest; love and thou art drawn.” The drawing of grace changes nature, and strengthens nature, reforms nature, subdues nature, but only if we be willing to be changed, reformed, subdued, strengthened. How then may we know if we have this faith? How may it grow and be strengthened in us? How do we know that our bodies live? “As,” says a holy man, “we discern the life of this body by its motion, so also the life of faith by good works. The life of the body is the soul, whereby it is moved and feels; the life of faith is love; because by it, it worketh, as thou readest in the apostle, “faith which worketh by love: Whence also when charity waxeth cold, faith dies; as the body, when the soul departeth.” (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

The grandeur of faith

I. View, then, the grandeur of faith as the great collective act, in which all the powers of the soul are alike embarked. If God, in the beginning, by the constitution which He gave to man, made him a creature of law, if it can be shown that man fell from his original holiness in the free exercise of all the powers by which he was characterized a responsible being, then it follows that the gospel, as a remedy, must, in all its provisions, recognize this fundamental fact. The whole work of salvation has been already achieved by One from the bosom of the Father, acting as our substitute under the law, satisfying the claims of justice, and rendering obedience to the precepts. Where, then, if we do not work out the righteousness by which we are saved, comes into play our agency? What has man to do in this matter of personal salvation? Where does God place the test of our responsibility and freedom? Exactly at this point: Not in working out a righteousness, not in making atonement for sin, but in accepting the righteousness which is already provided--by cleaving to the Saviour whom the gospel presents to us as our Redeemer. Therefore, with the highest philosophy, do the Scriptures say, “He that believeth shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned.” I ask you, now, to notice how completely, in the simplest exercise of faith, every faculty of the human soul is brought into action. There is the understanding, which must employ itself upon the propositions of Scripture in order to perceive what they say. There is the judgment and reason, which must meditate upon what is contained in these statements, in order to see whether they constitute a sound basis for a sinner’s hope. Here are the affections, all brought into exercise when we behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and feel that He is, to us, “the chiefest among ten thousand and the one altogether lovely.” Here is the will, putting forth its determinate act of choice when it accepts the Lord Jesus Christ, and accepts His work; and, in this very act of acceptance, distinctly and consciously repudiates every other ground of trust-exclaiming, with the apostle, “I desire to be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Nay, even the subordinate faculties of the human soul, such as the imagination, and the fancy, and the taste, all are brought into exercise in order that the great facts of the gospel may be presented before the mind as realities which it can touch and apprehend. Even the faith which is but as a grain of mustard seed, over which you and I weep in the closet because it is so feeble, when you come to analyze it in its constituent parts, is found to have drawn upon the whole contents of your spiritual being. It has occupied the understanding, it has employed the conscience, it has drawn out the affections, it has exercised the will; so that not one single power in man has remained dormant in that faith by which we cling to the Lord Jesus Christ. We hear the eulogy pronounced every day upon the achievements of intellect. Men spread out their philosophies before us, and we follow the painful steps with which they have proceeded from the first premise to the most distant conclusion. We walk with the scientists, who seem to have wrested from the hand of the Creator the keys of His own universe, and with bold adventure have roamed through its wide domains, opening its secret cabinets and unlocking their treasures to our gaze. And as these high achievements of science and of philosophy are held up before us, we are filled with astonishment and pride. God forbid that I should lack in sympathy with these grand movements of the human mind! But they are the exercise of only one power of our nature, even at the best. They reveal man in the towering reach of his intellect, which is bound to expand throughout the eternal ages, growing larger in its grasp and holding within its embrace the great truths of eternity and of God. By so much as I hope hereafter to see in heaven the boundless glory of Jehovah, and to spread out all my intellect in the contemplation of what is sublime and beautiful in God, am I forbidden this day to utter one word of disparagement upon the proofs of man’s gigantic understanding. But I turn to faith, which equally exercises this intellect, which draws out all the affections of the soul and the immense power of the will; which presents man before me in the full complement of his powers; which reveals me to myself in the superb integrity of my nature--and I feel that if, through grace, I have been able to exercise this faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, I have put forth an act which has brought out the totality of my being, which has expressed all the constituents of my nature, and which, therefore, in its essential glory, immeasurably transcends all other acts within the compass of the human soul. Under this aspect of it, then, I ask you to look at faith--as the great collective act of the soul, in which a man embarks all the constituent faculties of his being.

II. Faith is the full and final conveyance of the soul to the Lord Jesus as His possession for ever. So that the first act of faith, by which we cleave to Jesus Christ, contains potentially within itself every subsequent act. Just as the seed implicitly contains the whole plant which is evolved from it, so all other acts of faith, until the hour when faith shall lose itself in sight, are contained within this first conveyance of the soul over to the Lord Jesus Christ. For, my hearer--God help you to understand it! ten myriads of times, in sins of desire and of thought and of deed, you have, with your own signature, endorsed the original apostasy in the garden of Eden and underwritten it for yourself. All your days, by personal transgression, you have assumed that guilt as your own. But now comes the hour when the connection with the first Adam is to be broken, when, as far as in us lies, we openly and publicly recant all our sin, and say to the second Adam, who stands upon the ruins of the first covenant and fulfils all of its forfeited conditions, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” My hearer! is there no power in such an act? and must there not be a Divine virtue in the principle which enables you to perform it--when you can thus cut the connection with all preceding sin, and with him who by his fall precipitated you beneath the curse, disavowing all the transactions of the past, and giving yourselves over in an everlasting covenant to Him who is your Redeemer?

III. View faith as the germinal grace, out of which the whole experience of the Christian is developed--the root of all repentance, obedience, love, and worship. Thus I meet the shallow criticism which men sometimes make against the gospel, when they say, “We turn to one Scripture which declares, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved;’ and we turn to another Scripture which proclaims, ‘Repent and be converted for the remission of sins.’” They ask of what value is that system which, in the very terms of salvation, is found so contradictory? Faith and repentance are but the two poles of one and the same truth. As there can be no faith which does not involve repentance as its immediate consequence, so there can be no repentance which has not been preceded by the faith of which it was born: and the difference between the two is simply in the order of thought in which you choose to contemplate them. When you shall presently go out of this building, every step down those aisles toward the door carries you just so much away from your pew: but as egress from the building is before the mind as the object to be attained, the motion toward the door, in the order of thought, precedes the motion from the pew; yet every inch that lessens the distance from the one increases just so much the distance from the other. The two are necessarily reciprocal. Then the faith which accepts the Lord Jesus Christ, accepts Him in all of His offices. Thus, faith is seen to be the germ, first of our repentance, then of our obedience, and then of that supreme love which we have to God when we love Him with all the heart and with all the soul and with all the strength and with all the mind. And if faith be, as I have sought to represent, the full conveyance of the soul to Christ as His possession, then is it in itself a complete and sublime devotion; and becomes the germ of that positive worship which we render to God upon His throne here upon earth and hereafter in heaven.

IV. See the grandeur of faith as it is the human correlative, and the human measure, of the atonement of Jesus Christ. Here, again, as I put into these cold words a thought that burns like fire, I tremble at the presumption. The obedience of Jesus Christ is the measure of God’s holiness. And you find that there is a human measure and a human correspondent to this atonement of the Redeemer itself. For when our faith embraces it--when our faith looks upon the blood of Christ, and upon the obedience of Christ, and upon the sufferings and upon the cross of Christ--when, with all the power that belongs to thought, with all the pathos that belongs to feeling, with all the energy that belongs to will, man brings out his whole nature and grasps that atonement, and draws it up to him, and lays it over against his own guilty conscience, and rests in life and in eternity upon its blessed provisions--you have the best expression that earth can give of its estimate of the glory that lies in obedience to the law. I cannot afford to disparage that faith which thus, in its excursions, travels over the atonement of the adorable Redeemer; which is itself the measure of the infinite justice of God, and takes the dimensions of the boundless glory of Jehovah.

V. In the last place, I signalize the grandeur of faith, in that it is the perfection of reason. Philosophers are wont to glory in the prowess of human reason. Let me illustrate this, most simply, from the science of mathematics. If I say that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right-angles, I by no means state a truth that is intuitive, but one that is demonstrable. But, then, how do I demonstrate it? By proving that the things which are equal to the same thing are equal to one another. Through the demonstration I carry the mind back, step by step, until it is landed in one of those original and necessary cognitions. And yet the mathematician will smile, with the most self-complacent disdain, upon the very principle which gives him the postulate upon which his reasoning depends. Now, consistency is a jewel; and when you undertake to flout faith, you must go clean through and strike at all these beliefs. When a man tramples upon this principle of faith, which demands the acceptance of the Saviour, I debar him from the possibility of reasoning on any subject under the sun. If the human reason starts from what it is obliged to accept; if, in all the after process, it is obliged to remand its conclusions to that elementary trust from which it in the first instance departed, in order to verify them--if you are obliged, for example, to believe in the principle of causality; if you are obliged to believe in the fact of your personal indentity; if you are obliged, by the necessity of your mental constitution, to believe in the reality of the external world, and to rely upon the evidence and the testimony of sense which underlies all the demonstrations of our proud physical science; if you are compelled, by the same necessity, to rely upon memory, which hangs together all the links of every chain of reasoning through which you are carried--I say, just in proportion as you reason with power to conclusions that are satisfactory, the verification of those conclusions is found in the elementary beliefs which you accept simply and alone with the trust of faith; and I interdict you, by this known fact, from undertaking to despise or contemn it. The man of intellect, who is proud of his power of thought, is the very last under the broad heavens to despise the principle of faith, which gives him his postulates, and the tests by which his conclusions are verified. One other suggestion, and then I am done with this point; which is, that if we start from faith, and if all the time we are going back to faith to verify every course of reasoning, it would seem that when we have accomplished the grand circuit, and know all things that are knowable, and have proved all things that are demonstrable--it seems to me in perfect analogy with man’s mental constitution and with God’s high prerogatives, that He should open to us the infinite beyond the finite; that we should rise at last beyond nature up to God; that we should ascend, at last, above these mortal shores to the immortal; that we should have power, by this principle of faith, to take possession of another world, grander, larger, more glorious than all these myriads of worlds which dot the immensity of space; and that, by and by, when we shall have illustrated all the triumphs of science, we shall be able to put the climax upon all this by the higher triumphs of a grander faith. God is infinite, lying beyond the sphere of human thought. Can He ever be known except through revelation? Could we ever understand Him, except by the power of faith? (B. M. Palmer, D. D.)

Faith working by love

I. Faith always produces love.

1. By a necessity of faith’s own nature.

2. By the discoveries of beauty in Christ which faith is sure to make.

3. By its appropriation of the love of Christ.

4. By its enjoyment of mercy, leading the heart to a grateful acknowledgment of the source of mercy.

5. By the familiarity with God and the congeniality of disposition which it breeds in the heart.

II. Love is entirely dependent on faith.

1. No man loves a Saviour in whom he reposes no confidence.

2. Love cannot flourish except as faith flourishes.

3. Love cannot work without faith.

III. Faith displays its power by love. Compare faith to an artificer in metals.

1. Love is faith’s arm.

2. Faith’s tools.

3. Faith’s furnace.

4. Faith’s mould.

5. Faith’s metal, for into the mould of love faith pours love itself.

6. Faith’s burnisher.

IV. Love reacts on faith and perfects it.

1. Love leads the soul into admiration and so increases faith.

2. Love forbids unbelief.

3. Perfect love casts out fear.

In conclusion

That salvation is conditional does not affect its gratuitousness

A nobleman might declare his intention of giving a purse of money to all who would walk to his castle, knock at his door, and ask for the treasure. The walking, the knocking, the asking, would be the conditions of bestowment; but certainly the conditions, when fulfilled, would leave untouched the gratuitousness; and no one who walked, knocked, and asked, and obtained the purse would regard it as wages due for what had been done. The case is precisely the same when the proposed benefit is salvation, and the prescribed conditions repentance, faith, and works. (H. MeIvill, B. D.)

Uncircumcision availeth nothing

There may be as much formalism in protesting against forms as in using them. Extremes meet; and an unspiritual Quaker is at bottom of the same way of thinking as an unspiritual Roman Catholic. They agree in their belief that certain outward acts are essential to worship, and even to religion. They only differ as to what those acts are. The Judaizer who says, “you must be circumcised,” and his antagonist who says, “you must be uncircumcised,” are really in the same boat. Neither rejection of forms nor formalism, neither negations nor affirmations, make a Christian. One thing alone does that, faith which worketh by love, against which sense ever wars, both by tempting some of us to place religion in outward acts and ceremonies, and by tempting others of us to place it in rejecting the forms which our brethren abuse. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The relations between faith and love

The two graces are inseparable. Like Mary and Martha they are sisters, and abide in one house. Faith, like Mary, sits at Jesus’ feet and hears His words, and then love, like Martha, diligently goes about the house and rejoices to honour the Divine Lord. Faith is light, while love is heat, and in every beam of grace from the Sun of Righteousness you will find a measure of each. True faith in God cannot exist without love to Him, nor sincere love without faith. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Faith and love are the brain and heart of the soul, so knit together in a mutual harmony and correspondence, that without their perfect union the whole Christian man cannot move with power, nor feel with tenderness, nor breathe with true life. (T. Adams.)

Faith and love

Judith goes in alone, and by her own hand delivers Israel; the waiting woman hath not a stroke in it (Judith 13:1-20.). Faith is this great lady, and charity her handmaid; through all the actions of goodness she attends on her mistress; when faith sets down the objects of her beneficence, love is her secretary; when she disposeth her good deeds, love is her almoner; when she treats a league of peace, love is her ambassador; what work soever she undertaketh, charity is her instrument. But when it comes to a point of justification to enter the presence chamber of the Great King, to procure remission and peace, charity leaves her to herself. Thus is it now. But hereafter these two shall change places; charity shall be the lady, and faith the waiting-woman. When the soul is to be discharged out of prison and moves to the high court of heaven, faith waits upon her all the way; but at the presence-chamber of glory, faith stays without and love only enters. Yet though faith at last perish in the act, it shall never perish in the effect; for we shall enjoy what we have believed. (T. Adams.)

The relation of faith and love to spiritual life

We may compare the infusion of spiritual life by God to His importation of vegetable life to a tree; faith and love, considered as organs of the inner life, we may compare to the roots of the tree which cleave to the soil for nourishment and support, and to the sap which is propelled through the trunk to every branch and fibre; and finally, we may compare good works, which are the products and manifestations of the vital energies, to the leaves and blossoms with which the tree is adorned, and to its fruits, which are pleasant to the eye and grateful to the palate. No one of these is to be overlooked, nor are they to be confounded with each other. (T. MacNeece, D. D.)

Faith, a power

Whenever the things believed are fitted to awaken any emotion or other active principle of our nature, belief becomes a power. Such it is in all matters respecting man’s life, his interests, and his passions. Let a geologist tell a man that there is coal on his property; if he believe him, be assured his faith will not be long inoperative. (T. MacNeece, D. D.)

Love impossible without faith

You cannot love by mere trying. Trial is the first stage in Christian development, but do not call yourself an expert Christian until the distinguishing Christian graces come to you in ways that are spontaneous, automatic, overflowing, consentaneous, symmetrical, and brood as the stream of life--until every thought and feeling has been subdued to the supreme will of God, which is love. When you have reached that condition, then you may call yourself an expert Christian. (H. W. Beecher.)

Faith working by and not by love

Faith is one of the mightiest powers that the world contains. It is like the central fire of the earth, it is like the fountain of the great deep. But whether it be a power for good or evil depends entirely on the objects to which it is directed, or the way in which it “works.” It may be a volcano scattering ruin and desolation around it, or it may be the genial heat and warmth which fuses together the granite foundations of the globe, and sustains the life of every human being on its surface. It may be a torrent tearing and rending everything before it; it may be diverted into a hundred insignificant streams; or it may be a calm and mighty river, fertilizing and civilizing the world. There is a faith which justifies and a faith which condemns. Faith which worketh by love justifies, sanctifies, elevates, strengthens, purifies Faith which worketh not by love, condemns, hardens, weakens, destroys. The ordinary means and ways by which the faith of a Brahmin, e.g., works are not love, and truth, and justice; but meats, and drinks, and washings. To eat the flesh of a cow is the most enormous wickedness of which a Hindoo can be guilty, and one for which there is no forgiveness in this world or the world to come. To bathe in the waters of the sacred river, is a passport to heaven which will avail though every moral virtue he cast aside. On the avoidance of this sin and the preservation of this virtue the Hindoo expends an energy, a courage, a faith, which would be sufficient to convert a kingdom, and the consequence is that the wilder passions of his nature are left either altogether unrestrained, or are actual]y stimulated and aggravated by the faculty which was meant to purify and elevate them. It is like any other power of the human mind, which, if fed on useless or poisonous substances, becomes unable to attend to what is useful and wholesome. There may be a gigantic memory, which lays up the most trifling details, and forgets the most important events. There may be a gigantic intellect, which wastes itself away in subtlety, or degrades itself in fraud and treachery. There may be also a gigantic faith, which squanders its powers on things without profit, which works by blindness of heart, vainglory, and hypocrisy, by envy, malice, hatred, and all uncharitableness. But Christian faith worketh always and everywhere by love. In this one broad channel, faith may work as it will; it will find enough to fill, enough to fertilize, many rough corners to be rounded off, many intervening obstacles to be washed away, many winding tracks to be followed. Do not divert the faith of Christ our Saviour, that world-controlling, world-conquering faith, from its proper functions; we cannot afford to lose its aid, we want the whole volume of its waters, the undivided strength of its stream, to moisten the dry soil of our hardened hearts, to feed and cleanse our dark habitations, to turn the vast wheels of our complex social system, to deepen our shallow thoughts, to widen our narrow sympathies, to sweeten our bitter controversies, to freshen our stagnant indolence. “Faith working by love,” can do this, and nothing else can; and we can neither with safety spare its motive power, nor yet without danger open another path for its energies. (Dean Stanley.)

Faith working by love the only genuine faith

That only is faith that makes us to love God, to do His will, to suffer His impositions, to trust His promises, to see through a cloud, to overcome the world, to resist the devil, to stand in the day of trial, and to be comforted in all our sorrows. (Jeremy Taylor.)

Faith working by love

Faith is able to justify of itself, not to work of itself. The hand alone can receive an alms, but cannot cut a piece of wood without an axe or some instrument. Faith is the Christian’s hand, and can without help receive God’s given grace into the heart; but to produce the fruits of obedience, and to work the actual duties required, it must have an instrument: add love to it, and it worketh by love. So that the one is our justification before God, and the other our testification before man. (T. Adams.)

Faith when once it lives in the soul is all Christian practice in the germ. (Canon Liddon.)

How to estimate the strength of faith

Faith works by love, and therefore its strength or weakness may be discovered by the strength or weakness of the love it puts forth in the Christian’s actings. The strength of a man’s arm that draws a bow is seen by the force the arrow which he shoots flies with. And, certainly, the strength of our faith may be known by the force that our love mounts to God with. It is impossible that weak faith, which is unable to draw the promise as a strong faith can, should leave such a forcible impression on the heart to love God as the stronger faith does. If, therefore, thy heart be strongly carried out from love to God, to abandon sin, perform duty, and exert acts of obedience to His command, know thy place, and take it with humble thankfulness; thou art a graduate in the art of believing. (W. Gurnall.)

Faith and love intimately connected

Faith without love is, as it were, a dream, an image of faith; just as the appearance of a face in a glass is not a real face. (Luther.)

Flatter not thyself in thy faith to God, if thou wantest charity for thy neighbour; and think not thou hast charity for thy neighbour, if thou wantest faith to God: where they are not both together, they are both wanting; they are both dead if once divided. (F. Quarles.)

Faith is the source; charity, that is, the whole Christian life, is the stream from it. It is quite childish to talk of faith being imperfect without charity; as wisely might you say that a fire, however bright and strong, was imperfect with heat; or that the sun, however cloudless, is imperfect without beams. The true answer would be, it is not faith, but utter reprobate faithlessness. (S. T. Coleridge.)

Faith is that nail which fastens the soul to Christ; and love is the grace which drives the nail to the head. Faith takes hold of Him, and love helps to keep the grip. Christ dwells in the heart by faith, and He burns in the heart by love, like a fire melting the breast. Faith casts the knot, and love draws it fast. (Erskine.)

Faith’s evidences

Consider the character and the position of a man of simple faith. That man walks this earth, and with every step he feels and realizes that he is in another world of unseen things, greater and far more real to him than what he can see about him. Now let us see what some of the consequences of that faith are--its results, and its evidences. It is quite evident that such a man is, and must be, at peace, for he possesses every element of peace. The past pardoned; the present furnished and supplied; the future secure. Now that rest makes composure, and composure is strength. Faith, and faith only makes strength. Faith is strength. Or look at him again in another of the consequences of faith; “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Then you say, charity--that is, love--is greater than faith? Yes, greater as a tree is greater than its root, or as a river is greater than its spring; but the faith makes the charity. It is an indispensable ingredient and representation of all charity. I must believe before I can love; I must believe in God before I can love God. Now we are all kind in proportion as we are happy. Who has not found it so? Why do we feel kind on a birthday, or at a marriage, or when we receive some very good news? Why are we kind at Christmas? Because we are happy. For to be happy, we must have no bitter past; we must have no dreaded future; but there must be in the future hope which casts back its happiness upon the passing hour. To make happiness there must be a happy to-day, and a happier to-morrow; without a happier to-morrow, no day will be perfectly happy. This again, is just what faith gives. What is bad in the past is cancelled. The future is bright; and the bright future brightens the passing hour. Faith makes hope, hope makes happiness, and happiness makes love. The next thing is union with Christ. It is a new creation, and faith, faith has done it. “Faith has worked by love,” and made the union. That union is heaven; it is heaven begun upon earth. Let us follow that man now that he is united. See him at his prayers. O, so different to what he used to call “saying his prayers.” It is a child speaking to a Father; and he goes boldly. “Faith worketh by love.” Observe the relationship. Faith is mistress, love is the handmaid. “Faith worketh by love.” Love subordinate to faith. If love is not subordinate to faith, love becomes misplaced. Love subordinate to faith. Faith has to do with the unseen, and makes it seen, and then the love clasps the seen and makes it his own. We begin by believing the great Unseen; we go on to believe that is love; we apply that love to ourselves, and so that is faith. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Faith working by love

Now observe, this “love” has nothing to do with saving you. You were saved before the “love” began. It owes its existence to the fact of your being saved. It is no cause, it is an effect--an invariable effect--an effect which loves the presence of the cause. “We love Him because He first loved us.” And now you come to the second stage. You “love:” deeply, gratefully, irrepressibly, you “love.” What comes next? “Love” is a feeling which always looks about to find, or make for itself language. If it do not this, it may be a passion, but it is not “love.” The language of love is action. We all wish to please where we feel affection. Therefore, by a necessary law, the forgiven soul--happy and attached--looks at lovingly--to see how it can testify its gratitude to the God of its salvation. In God’s great scheme, every Christian is working under constraint of the most powerful impulse that ever animates the breast of man. It is a spring strong enough for the machine, the great machine which it has to move; but all the while he works happily because he works under the smile of God, who has forgiven him, and who loves him with an everlasting love: sure, because it is free, and certain to continue on to the end, because it was all Christ at the beginning. In this little ladder of three steps which goes up from sin to peace, and from peace to glory--the only point that unites the two worlds: faith resting on Christ, love springing out of faith, and good works crowning love--I do desire to trace with you, for a minute, how they act and re-act one upon the other, interweaving themselves endlessly, into greater and greater unity and strength. “Faith” is the only basis of “love.” You cannot really “love” God until you believe that He has forgiven you. You cannot “love” an angry God you cannot “love” an object of fear--such as God must be to every man who does not feel that he is pardoned. Well, now, see the return. Every good work re-acts to feed the “love” from which it sprang. Do not you know how, by doing something for any person, you may make yourself, at last, begin to “love” that person? Do not you know still more how, by every act of self-denying affection to those you love, you increase the feeling, and deepen the tendency of the attachment? So that the rule is good in the heavenly code, every good action, done for Christ’s sake, increases spiritual affection, and enhances the desire to love--just as the dropping of the fruit strengthens the roots for the next autumn’s harvest. It is a blessed thing to have a religion which I ‘am now endeavouring to shew in its whole nature is a “faith which worketh by love.” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Faith worketh

I have read that a bishop of the Episcopal Church said, “When I was about entering the ministry, I was one day in conversation with an old Christian friend, who said, ‘You are to be ordained: when you are ordained, preach to sinners as you find them; tell them to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and they shall be as safe as if they were in heaven; and then tell them to work like horses.’”

Christian enthusiasm

I. Define enthusiasm.

1. Origin of the word, and its uses at that time.

2. Etymology: marking changes in meaning.

3. Emphasize present use--Christian enthusiasm.

II. Enthusiasm subjectively considered. God in. Love dwelling in the Christian’s heart.

1. Crystalized energy; energy taking form; efficiency.

2. Concentrated earnestness; sincerity and singleness of purpose.

3. Unwavering perseverance; continuity.

4. Indomitable courage; bravery.

III. Objectively considered. Love at work. Love gives faith its life, and causes it to glow with fervency, but it does more: it gives action. Faith worketh by love. This action depends upon two conditions, viz.:

1. A correct ideal. Love reveals Christ as the One altogether lovely.

(a) In His character.

(b) In His work.

2. A worthy cause. Love seeks the best time, place, subject. What can be more worthy to engage the Christian’s powers than the gospel? When once at work, what will net a Christian endure? (Hebrews 11:1-40.) (Missionaries.) Faith may subdue kingdoms, may overcome worlds, but first of all it must be inspired by love. Faith worketh by love. (American Homiletic Review.)


1. That the grace of faith is a working grace if it be of a right kind.

2. That if faith be right and true it worketh by love. First.

That faith is a working grace: we have many Scriptures that prove this (2 Thessalonians 1:11). If faith be living it works. Show

I.--What the work is that faith doth. Answer--It is that which nothing else can do. If we ask faith, as Christ did His disciples, What do ye more than others? Faith might say, Yes, I do.

1. It doth more than sight or sense can do. Faith can make that which is far off to be near (Hebrews 11:1).

2. It will do that which reason cannot.

[1.] In reference to doctrinal revelation, as--

(1.) The doctrine of the Trinity.

(2.) Of the creation.

(3.) The doctrine of the resurrection.

[2.] In reference to providential dispensations. God told Abraham that he should have a child, though he were an hundred, and Sarah fourscore and ten; and Abraham believed it, and it was so.

3. It can do that which no other grace can do. Faith doth all things well. This will appear by three things--

II.--How it comes to pass that faith doth all these things? Answer--Not by its own power. Whence then is it?

1. It is from the supplies of the Spirit of God; the Spirit of God works in every act of believing (Colossians 1:29). Faith of itself can do nothing.

2. As it hath Christ for the object of it (John 14:1; Philippians 4:13).

3. By applying the promises, which are the food of faith (Psalms 60:6). Secondly.--Faith works by love. Question--What are we to understand by love? Answer--There is a two-fold love.

1. Passively. Faith is accepted by love.

[1.] Leaving his kindred and country to follow God, he knew not where.

[2.] When God told him that he should have a son, which was greater than the former.

[3.] The offering of this son, which was the greatest trial of all to him.

2. Actually.


I.--How faith in God doth produce love to God.

1. By acquainting the soul with His most excellent perfections.

2. By acquainting the soul with the great love of God to us.

3. In revealing this to us in the gospel, by inviting us; when the soul sees this great love of God, saith, How can I choose but love Him again? (Psalms 31:19; Psalms 31:23).

II. Where this love is, it works desire of obedience to the command of God. Where love is, obedience is.

Answer--If it doth work.

1. If it sets the Lord always before us.

2. It sets the things of the other world before us.

3. It purifies the heart.

4. It overcomes the world.

5. It overcomes the fiery darts of the devil.

Thou hast faith, but it hath these characters:--

[1.] If faith be weak, it will work but weakly. When faith is weak, it will look upon that to be a discouragement that is indeed an encouragement.

[2.] If it be weak, it will not work alone, it must have company.

[3.] If faith be weak, it will not work in the dark. (Philip Henry.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Galatians 5:6". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith working through love.

This means "neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is relevant to Christianity." The question of true justification does not regard such a thing in any manner whatever. Some have wondered why Paul included "uncircumcision" in this declaration; but, as many of the Galatian converts had been won from the Jewish synagogues (where Paul always went first with the gospel), it was mandatory that none of them should be concerned with the fact that they had been circumcised long ago, nor concern themselves with trying to undo it. Some indeed had, through surgery, attempted to become "uncircumcised." Although there is no evidence that any of the Galatians had done that, it may be inferred from 1 Corinthians 7:18,19 that some at Corinth had gone that far; and as MacKnight said, "Apostate Jews fancied that by such actions they could free themselves of their obligation to keep the Law of Moses."[5] There was also another consideration: "From Paul's speaking so much against circumcision, some might have believed that there was something meritorious in uncircumcision."[6] As Howard correctly summarized it, "For salvation, circumcision had no value; and for salvation, uncircumcision had no value."[7]

But faith working through love ... Contrasted with things of no value, here is the essence of justification; and sure enough, it is not "faith alone," but "faith working through love," thus presenting the emphatic apostolic denial of the favorite heresy of our age. To be sure, people do not like this verse, rendering it "faith inspired by love" (New English Bible margin), or otherwise avoiding the word "working" as they would strive to avoid the plague! It happens that Paul used the expression "circumcision nor uncircumcision, etc." three different times thus:

Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision ... but faith working through love (Galatians 5:6).

Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision ... but a new creature (Galatians 6:15).

Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision ... but the keeping of the commandments of God (1 Corinthians 7:19).SIZE>

From the above comparison, it can be seen that "faith working by love" means the same thing as being baptized into Christ in order to become "a new creature" (2 Corinthians 5:17); nor is it limited to that, for it also means "keeping the commandments of God." This threefold summary of what does avail, as contrasted with circumcision or uncircumcision which do not avail, should be pondered by all who seek to be known of the Lord and to stand with Christ "in that day." It is a source of thanksgiving that a scholar of the stature of Huxtable also testified to the truth thus:

"Faith operative through love" must be identical with, or involve "the keeping of God's commandments," and "a new creature." A close examination of the first of these three sentences will show that this is so. (Huxtable attached an extensive exegesis of the Greek text here, proving that passive renditions such as "faith wrought in us," etc., are absolutely "inadmissible and preposterous.")[8]

Of all the preposterous interpretations insinuated into this passage, however, none of them is as incredibly evil as that of William M. Greathouse, who wrote: "All Paul had to say about circumcision he would say equally about baptism!"[9] Nevertheless, Greathouse must be commended in this, namely, that he bluntly stated the conviction of the entire "faith only" family of interpreters, who by their writings attempt to lead the reader to that same conclusion, yet lack the courage to say what they mean as Greathouse did. See under Galatians 5:12 for comment on "in Christ."

[5] James MacKnight, Apostolical Epistles and Commentary, Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1969), p. 108.

[6] James MacKnight (on Galatians), op. cit., p. 192.

[7] R. E. Howard, op. cit., p. 83.

[8] E. Huxtable, Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), Vol. 20, p. 242.

[9] William M. Greathouse, Beacon Bible Commentary, Romans (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1969), p. 103.

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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

For in Christ Jesus,.... The Arabic version reads, "in the religion of Christ"; in the religion of Moses, or of the Jews under the former dispensation, the things after mentioned were of some moment and consideration; but are of no account in the Christian religion, and under the Gospel dispensation: circumcision and uncircumcision make no difference in the church of Christ, or are any bar to communion with it; nor do they make any alteration in the love and favour of Christ, who is all in all to his people, whether Jews or Gentiles; nor have they any influence at all on salvation, Christ being a common Saviour to the circumcised and uncircumcised; nor are they any evidence for or against a person's being in Christ, or having an interest in him:

neither circumcision availeth anything; not now as a command and ordinance of God, being abolished by Christ; nor as a type, having its accomplishment in him, and his people; nor as a privilege, giving any preference in any respect to the Jew above the Gentile; nor is it of any weight or consequence, or has any concern in the business of salvation:

nor uncircumcision; it is no hinderance to the enjoyment of the Gospel, to entrance into a Gospel church state, or to admission to the ordinances of it; nor to the participation of the blessings of grace, as justification, pardon, adoption, and eternal life:

but faith which works by love; faith has a concern in justification and salvation, not by way of causal influence, but as it is that grace which receives the righteousness of Christ, through which we are saved, and kept by the power of God unto salvation; yet not any sort of faith, but that which is operative, is attended with good works; and which works itself by love to God, to Christ, to his people, ways, worship, truths, and ordinances. The Syriac version renders it, דמתגמרז "which is perfected by love"; that is, is showed to be right, true, and genuine thereby; see James 2:22.

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Gill, John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

3 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor 4 uncircumcision; 5 but e faith which worketh by love.

(3) He adds a reason, for now circumcision is abolished, seeing that Christ is exhibited to us with complete spiritual circumcision. {(4)} He makes mention also of uncircumcision, lest the Gentiles should please themselves in it, as the Jews do in circumcision. {(5)} The taking away of an objection: if all that worship of the Law is taken away, in what than shall we exercise ourselves? In charity, Paul says: for faith of which we speak cannot be idle; no, it brings forth daily fruits of charity.

(e) So is true faith distinguished from counterfeit faith: for charity is not joined with faith as a fellow cause, to help forward our justification with faith.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

For — confirming the truth that it is “by faith” (Galatians 5:5).

in Jesus ChristGreek, “in Christ Jesus.” In union with Christ (the ANOINTED Savior), that is, Jesus of Nazareth.

nor uncircumcision — This is leveled against those who, being not legalists, or Judaizers, think themselves Christians on this ground alone.

faith which worketh by loveGreek, “working by love.” This corresponds to “a new creature” (Galatians 6:15), as its definition. Thus in Galatians 5:5, Galatians 5:6, we have the three, “faith,” “hope,” and “love.” The Greek expresses, “Which effectually worketh”; which exhibits its energy by love (so 1 Thessalonians 2:13). Love is not joined with faith in justifying, but is the principle of the works which follow after justification by faith. Let not legalists, upholding circumcision, think that the essence of the law is set at naught by the doctrine of justification by faith only. Nay, “all the law is fulfilled in one word - love,” which is the principle on which “faith worketh” (Galatians 5:14). Let them, therefore, seek this “faith,” which will enable them truly to fulfil the law. Again, let not those who pride themselves on uncircumcision think that, because the law does not justify, they are free to walk after “the flesh” (Galatians 5:13). Let them, then, seek that “love” which is inseparable from true faith (James 2:8, James 2:12-22). Love is utterly opposed to the enmities which prevailed among the Galatians (Galatians 5:15, Galatians 5:20). The Spirit (Galatians 5:5) is a Spirit of “faith” and “love” (compare Romans 14:17; 1 Corinthians 7:19).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Martin Luther's Commentary on Galatians

For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.
Faith must of course be sincere. It must be a faith that performs good works through love. If faith lacks love it is not true faith. Thus the Apostle bars the way of hypocrites to the kingdom of Christ on all sides. He declares on the one hand, "In Christ Jesus circumcision availeth nothing," i.e., works avail nothing, but faith alone, and that without any merit whatever, avails before God. On the other hand, the Apostle declares that without fruits faith serves no purpose. To think, "If faith justifies without works, let us work nothing," is to despise the grace of God. Idle faith is not justifying faith. In this terse manner Paul presents the whole life of a Christian. Inwardly it consists in faith towards God, outwardly in love towards our fellow-men.

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Luther, Martin. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". "Martin Luther's Commentary on Galatians". Zondervan. Gand Rapids, MI. 1939.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

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.

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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

In Christ Jesus

In the economy of life which he inaugurates and inspires.

Availeth ( ἰσχύει )

Has any significance or practical power. The verb in Paul only here and Philemon 4:13. See on 2 Thessalonians 1:9.

Which worketh ( ἐνεργουμένη )

See on 1 Thessalonians 2:13. Middle voice, comp. Romans 7:5; 2 Corinthians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 4:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:7; Ephesians 3:20. Not passive, as by many Roman Catholic expositors, faith which is wrought by love.

By love ( δἰ ἀγάπης )

Not that justification is through love; but the faith of the justified, which is their subjective principle of life, exhibits its living energy through love in which the whole law is fulfilled (Galatians 5:14). See 1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

For in Christ Jesus — According to the institution which he hath established, according to the tenor of the Christian covenant.

Neither circumcision — With the most punctual observance of the law.

Nor uncircumcision — With the most exact heathen morality.

Availeth anything — Toward present justification or eternal salvation.

But faith — Alone; even that faith which worketh by love - All inward and outward holiness.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Ибо во Христе Иисусе. Вот причина, почему на праведность уповают теперь в духе. Во Христе, то есть в царстве Христовом, или в Христианской Церкви упразднено обрезание со всем, что ему сопутствовало. Ибо под обрезанием апостол имел в виду все обряды вообще. Он говорит, что теперь для них уже нет места, но не соглашается с тем, что они всегда были бесполезными. Ведь по его словам, они были упразднены только после Христова пришествия. Таким образом, разрешается вопрос: почему апостол говорит здесь об обрезании столь пренебрежительно, как будто от него нет никакой пользы. Причина в том, что здесь он ведет речь об обрезании не как о таинстве, не исследует, что именно значило оно в то время, когда еще имело силу. Он лишь утверждает, что в царствии Христовом необрезание равно обрезанию, причем именно потому, что приход Христа положил конец законническим обрядам.

Но вера, действующая любовью. Обрядам апостол противопоставляет иной вид религиозной деятельности, а именно – служение любви. Делает он это, чтобы иудеи не думали о себе слишком высоко, словно имели какое-то преимущество. Ибо в конце послания апостол вместо любви упоминает о новой твари. Значит, он как бы говорит: Бог не желает, чтобы ныне мы занимались обрядами, достаточно, если мы будем упражняться в любви. Между тем Павел вовсе не исключает таинства, являющиеся помощниками веры, он лишь кратко формулирует то, что относится к духовному богопоклонению. В этом месте не было бы никакой трудности, если бы паписты злостно не исказили его для утверждения праведности по делам. Ибо, желая опровергнуть наше положение, что оправдываемся мы только верой, они прибегают к следующему приему: Если оправдывает лишь та вера, которая действует через любовь, значит, оправдывает не она одна. Отвечаю: они сами не понимают то, о чем болтают, тем более не смыслят того, о чем говорим мы. Ибо мы не учим, что оправдывающая вера пребывает одна; наоборот, мы утверждаем, что она постоянно соединяется с добрыми делами. Однако мы говорим о том, что ее одной достаточно для оправдания. Паписты же, подобно мясникам, плачевно расчленяют веру, делая ее то неоформленной и лишенной любви, то оформленной. Мы же отрицаем, что истинную веру можно отрывать от Духа возрождения. Но когда идет речь о причине оправдания, мы исключаем все дела вообще.

Что касается настоящего места, то Павел вовсе не рассуждает о том, содействует ли любовь вере в деле оправдания, но хочет лишь сказать, в чем состоят истинные духовные упражнения верных. Чтобы не показалось, будто он делает христиан праздными и уподобляет их пням. Итак, ведя речь об оправдании, остерегайся даже упоминать о любви и добрых делах, но яростно настаивай на исключающей частице «только». Здесь же Павел говорит не об оправдании, и не приписывает часть хвалы за него любви, ведь иначе отсюда следовало бы, что обрезание и обряды некогда имели силу оправдывать. Ибо как во Христе Иисусе апостол заповедует нам веру и любовь, так и до пришествия Христова требовались обряды. Однако даже сами паписты допускают, что они никак не служили обретению праведности. Значит, не следует так думать и о любви.




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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

Ver. 6. Neither circumcision] Unregenerate Israel is as Ethiopia, Amos 9:7.

But faith that worketh] Iustificamur tribus modis, Effective a Deo, apprehensive a fide, declarative ab operibus. Faith justifies the man, and works justify faith. To be a mother in Israel, is having Rachel’s eye and Leah’s womb.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Galatians 5:6

I. The first grand principle contained in these words is that faith working by love makes a Christian. (1) Religion is the harmony of the soul with God, and the conformity of the life to His law. (2) If we look backward from character and deed to motive, this harmony with God results from love becoming the ruling power of our lives. (3) The dominion of love to God in our hearts arises from faith.

II. The Apostle's words affirm that in comparison with the essential faith all externals are infinitely unimportant.

III. There is a constant tendency to exalt these unimportant externals into the place of faith.

IV. When an indifferent thing is made into an essential, it ceases to be indifferent, and must be fought against. Whenever parties or Churches insist on external rites as essential or elevate any of the subordinate means of grace into the place of the one bond which fastens our souls to Jesus and is the channel of grace as well as the bond of union, then it is time to arm for the defence of the spirituality of Christ's kingdom and to resist the attempt to bind on free shoulders the iron yoke. Let men and parties do as they like so long as they do not turn their forms into essentials. But "in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love."

A. Maclaren, Sermons in Manchester, 3rd series, p. 207.


I. Faith is the foundation of the whole spiritual building, whereby we are built on Christ Jesus. It is the root of the whole spiritual life of grace, the ground whereon the soul rests securely, the beginning of our spiritual existence. Faith goes even before love in thought, but not in deed. It goes before love in thought, for we love because we believe, not believe because we love. To faith which loves things seen fade from sight: things heard fall dull upon the ear; it will be unmoved by all outward things, for it has an inward sight, and an inward hearing, and an inward touch, whereby it beholds Christ dying on the cross for love of us, and in the shadow of His cross feels itself protected and healed. The cross is not far off, not over the seas, in the Holy Land, nor removed by length of time. Faith sees it close at hand, and clasps it, and loves it, and is crucified on it to Him.

II. Love is in all true faith, as light and warmth are in the ray of the sun. So soon as faith is kindled in the heart, there is the glow of love, and both come from the same Sun of righteousness pouring in faith and love together into the heart, and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof. With the increase of love, faith increaseth. But love liveth by good works. Love cannot live torpidly. Even in human love, love which never did deeds of love would grow dull and die. We love those most to whom we do most good. Love is perhaps increased more by doing than by receiving good, at least by doing good out of the love of God. "Faith worketh" (literally "inworketh"; the word means, worketh in the very soul itself) "by love."

E. B. Pusey, Sermons from Advent to Whitsuntide, vol. ii., p. 1.

References: Galatians 5:6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi., No. 1553; vol. xxix., No. 1750; vol. xxii., No. 1280; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 251; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 92; J. Vaughan, Sermons, 8th series, p. 37; J. Clifford, The Dawn of Manhood, p. 152.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Galatians 5:6. Faith which worketh by love. There is some degree of ambiguity in the original:— Δι αγαπης ενεργουμενη . It may be rendered either which operates, and works by love; or, which is wrought, inspired and perfected by love. Some have preferred the latter sense; and have taken occasion hence to shew, how much love tends to establish and perfect faith: but the former, which is the more usual sense, appears to be authorized by the use of the same word, Ephesians 3:20 and Colossians 1.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

In Christ Jesus, that is, in the economy of Christ Jesus, under the gospel dispensation, in our state of Christianity, since Christ's manifestation in the flesh, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision availeth any thing with God, as to our acceptance with him, or reward from him: but the qualification now necessary to salvation under the gospel, is faith working by love; that is, such an effectual belief of future happiness purchased for us, and promised to us by Christ, as causes us to love and serve him, to trust in and depend upon him for the same.

Learn, 1. That although circumcision, and the rest of the Levitical ceremonies, were once enjoined by God, and practised by the Jews as an acceptable service, and the neglect or contempt of them was a mortal sin; yet since Christ's coming in the flesh, who was the substance of all those shadows, the command whereby they were enjoined did cease, and neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avail any thing to salvation.

Learn, 2. That though the ceremonial law be abolished, yet a believer under the gospel has work to do, a work of faith, and labour of love; for though faith alone justifieth us before God, yet it is not alone in the heart when it doth justify, but is always accompanied with the grace of love to God and our neighbour; For in Christ Jesus no faith availeth any thing, but that which worketh by love.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. 1700-1703.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

6.] Confirmation of the words ἐκ πίστεως, Galatians 5:5.

ἐν χριστῷ, in Christ, as an element, in union with Christ, = in the state of a Christian: notice χρ. ἰησ., not ἰησ. χρ.:—in Christ, and that Christ, Jesus of Nazareth.

ἐνεργουμένη, not passive, but middle, as always in N. T. See reff. and notes on those places: also Fritzsche’s note on Romans 7:5. “ ἐνεργεῖν, vim exercere de personis, ἐνεργεῖσθαι, ex se (aut suam) vim exercere de rebus collocavit, Galatians 5:6; Colossians 1:29; 1 Thessalonians 2:13 al., ut h. l. Passivo (cf. ἐνεργεῖται πόλεμος, Polyb. i. 13. 5; Jos. Antt. xv. 5. 3) nunquam Paulus usus est.” The older Romanist Commentators (Bellarm., Est.) insisted on the passive sense as favouring the dogma of fides formata, for which it is cited by the Council of Trent, sess. vi. cap. 7, de Justific. And the modern Romanist Commentators, though abandoning the passive sense, still claim the passage on their side (e.g. Windischmann); but without reason; love is the modus operandi of faith, that which justifies, however, is not love, but faith; nor can a passage be produced, where St. Paul says we are justified by ‘faith working by love,’ but it is ever by faith only. One is astonished at the boldness of such a generally calm and fair writer as Windischmann, in claiming the passage for the Tridentine doctrine, even when the passive interpretation, which was all it had to lay hold on, is given up.

As parallels to our passage, see Romans 14:17; 1 Corinthians 7:19.

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Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae



Galatians 5:6. In Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

THE peculiar character of the Gospel is, that it shews how a sinner may be justified before God; yet the generality of Christians are far from entertaining just views of this most fundamental point: they confound the different offices of faith and works. But St. Paul distinguishes them with much accuracy and precision; he invariably declares that our justification is by faith; yet, though he denies to works the office of justifying, he invariably insists on them as the fruits and evidences of our faith. Nothing can be more decisive than the declaration before us.

We shall,

I. Explain it—

Man is prone to trust in outward rites and ceremonies—

[The Jews confided in the ordinance of circumcision: the Judaizing teachers also among the Christians inculcated the observance of that rite as a ground of hope: amongst ourselves also, many think it sufficient that they have been baptized, or expect to find admission into heaven because they have attended regularly at the Lord’s table.]

But no outward observances can avail for our salvation—

[An external conformity with the rule of duty may proceed from the basest principles: it may spring from a desire to obtain man’s applause, or to establish a righteousness of our own; and it may consist with the indulgence of evil tempers and vicious appetites. It cannot therefore of itself characterize the true Christian, nor can it “avail any thing” towards procuring the Divine favour. If indeed it proceed from faith and love, it will be rewarded; but if it be made the ground of our hope, it will prevent, rather than procure, our acceptance with God [Note: Galatians 5:2.].]

That which alone can avail for our acceptance with God, is “faith”—

[All the promises of God are made to faith [Note: Mark 16:16. Acts 10:43.]. It is by faith that all the saints of old obtained salvation [Note: Romans 4:3; Romans 4:6-7.]. St. Paul and St. James do not really differ respecting this [Note: St. Paul (Romans 4:1-5.) speaks of Abraham as being justified before God: St. James (2:21–23.) speaks of Abraham as manifesting his faith before man, and as justifying his pretensions to the Divine favour by a suitable conduct and conversation.], nor do any passages of Scripture really contradict it [Note: There are many expressions both in the Old and New Testament which seem to assert salvation by works: but they are only declarative of the character of those that shall he finally saved, or of God’s gracious determination to reward those works which flow from faith. If they were interpreted in any other way, they would invalidate the whole Gospel.]. If salvation be of grace, it must be by faith [Note: Romans 4:16.].]

Yet this faith must be productive of good works—

[It is not a mere notional assent to certain doctrines, nor is it a confident assurance respecting the safety of our own state; but it is a living operative principle in the heart: it is, on our part, the bond of union between Christ and our souls, and it cannot but discover itself by “works of love.—If it produce not holy tempers, and an unfeigned regard for the bodies and souls of men, it is no better than the faith of devils [Note: James 2:19.].]

The declaration in the text being explained, we shall,

I. Improve it—

Every part of Scripture, rightly understood, is profitable for the directing both of our faith and practice [Note: 2 Timothy 3:16. See the Greek.]—

We will improve this before us,

1. “For doctrine,” that is, for the establishing of true doctrine—

[The way of salvation is simply by faith in Christ: and every kind of work, ceremonial or moral [Note: The Apostle does not deny that circumcision is of any avail merely because it is a ceremonial work, but because it is a work; and because dependence on it would rob Christ of his glory. His argument therefore excludes works of whatever kind they be. Compare Galatians 2:16.], must be considered as of no avail with respect to justification before God. However necessary, however valuable, our obedience may be if performed aright, it ceases to be valuable the moment we depend upon it. This is clearly stated in the text and context [Note: Galatians 5:2-6.]; and St. Paul himself was practically persuaded of this doctrine [Note: Philippians 3:9.]. Let us then renounce all confidence in our own works, and rely wholly on the blood and righteousness of Christ.]

2. “For reproof,” that is, for the refuting of false doctrines—

[Some have argued from the text, that faith saves us as an operative principle. Thus they affirm that we are justified by something within ourselves. But faith, as a principle, is not of more value than love [Note: 1 Corinthians 13:13.]; and if we were justified by it as an operative principle, we should have room to boast, just as much as we should if we were justified by love or any other principle. The reason of our being justified by faith is, that faith unites us unto Christ, which is a property not common to any other grace. Our works do not make our faith to be good or saving, but only prove it to be so [Note: Just as fruit does not make a tree good, but only manifests it to be so.]. If our faith be genuine, we shall discover it to God by a simple dependence upon Christ, and to man by the practice of good works.]

3. “For correction” of unrighteous conduct—

[It must be confessed that many profess faith in Christ while their lives are unworthy of the Gospel: but such persons stand condemned even by their own profession. No faith is of any avail, but such as “works by love.” Let professors then weigh themselves in the balance of the sanctuary; let them examine their tempers, dispositions, and actions; let them acknowledge that a proud, envious, passionate, unforgiving, covetous, or selfish Christian, is as much a contradiction in terms, as an adulterous or murderous Christian; let them put away either their profession or their sins.]

4. “For instruction in righteousness”—

[To point out all the offices of love would be tedious. Let us contemplate it as set forth by the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 13.; — — — and, not content with any measure that we have attained, let us abound in it more and more [Note: If this were the subject of a Charity Sermon, it would be proper to open here the nature, excellence, and importance of the particular institution which was to be benefited; and then to exhort the benevolent in general, and believers in particular, to give it their liberal support.].]

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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Galatians 5:6. Warrant for the ἐκ πίστεως: for in Christ Jesus, in fellowship with Christ (in the relation of the ἐν χριστῷ εἶναι), neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail; the fact of a man being or not being circumcised is of no influence, but faith, which is operative through love, sc. ἰσχύει τι. The τι ἰσχύει is to be left in the same general and unlimited form in which it stands. Circumcision and uncircumcision are circumstances of no effect or avail in Christianity. And yet they were in Galatia the points on which the disturbance turned! On the faith active in love, which is the effective saving element in the state of the Christian, comp. 1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Corinthians 13; also James 2:22. By means of this faith man is καινὴ κτίσις, Galatians 6:15. Bengel well says: “Cum fide conjunxit Galatians 5:5, spem, nunc amorem; in his stat totus Christianismus.” How very necessary it was for the Galatians that prominence should be given to the activity of faith in love, may be seen from Galatians 5:15; Galatians 5:20; Galatians 5:26. The passive view of ἐνεργουμ., which is given by the Fathers and many Catholics, such as Bellarmine, Estius, Reithmayr, in whom the interest of dogmatic controversy against the Protestants came to a great extent into play, is erroneous, because ἐνεργεῖσθαι in the N.T. is always middle (vim suam exserere). See on 2 Corinthians 1:6; Fritzsche, ad Rom. vii. 6, II. p. 18. It does not mean, “having been rendered energetic through love” (Reithmayr), but working through love, expressing thereby its vital power. Moreover, our passage is not at variance with justification solely by faith: “opera fieri dicit ex fide per caritatem, non justificari hominem per caritatem,” Luther. Comp. Calovius: “Formatam(225) etiam fidem apostolus refellit, cum non per caritatem formam suam accipere vel formari, sed per caritatem operosam vel efficacem esse docet. Caritatem ergo et opera non fidem constituere, sed consequi et ex eadem fluere certum est.” It must, however, be observed that love (the opposite of all selfishness) must be, from its nature, the continuous moral medium of the operation of faith in those who are thereby justified,(226), 1 Corinthians 13:1 ff. Comp. Lipsius, Rechtfert. p. 192; Romang, in Stud. u. Krit. 1867, p. 90 ff., who, however, concedes too much to the idea of fides formata.

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Galatians 5:6. ἰσχύει) prevails, avails. The same word occurs, Matthew 5:13; James 5:16.— οὔτε ἀκροβυστία, nor uncircumcision) This refers to those who, if they regard themselves as free from the law, think that they are Christians on that account alone.— πίστις διʼ ἀγάπης ἐνεργουμένη, faith working by love) This is the new creature; Galatians 6:15. He joined hope with faith; now he joins with it love. In these the whole of Christianity [the being in Christ] consists; ἐνεργουμένη is not passive, but middle, 1 Thessalonians 2:13; nor does Paul put love as a form of faith, but shows that, along with faith, nothing else than love remains, Galatians 5:13-14; in which very truth, however, he teaches the same thing as James 2:22. Faith is recommended to those who defend circumcision; love, to those who think that uncircumcision is [avails] something, [that they may be reminded that the law is not set aside by faith, but confirmed.—V. g.] Love is opposed to the enmities which prevailed so virulently among the Galatians: Galatians 5:13; Galatians 5:15; Galatians 5:20; Galatians 5:26. Those seeking justification by works are at a very great distance from love. The Spirit is a Spirit of faith and love.—V. g.]

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible

Under the new testament established in Christ, and confirmed by the death of Christ, there is no difference between Jew and Gentile; there is but one way of justification, one of salvation, for them both; and that is, by believing in Christ Jesus; which faith is not an idle, inactive, inoperative faith, but such a

faith as worketh by love, both towards God and towards men, in an obedience to all the commandments of God: yet is not the soul justified, nor shall it stand righteous before God, in and for this obedience, which neither is faith, nor goeth before it, but followeth it, as the true, proper, and necessary effect of it.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

не имеет силы ни обрезание, ни необрезание Ср. 6:15. Ничто, совершаемое или не совершаемое в плоти, даже религиозные обряды, не имеют значения для Бога. Все внешнее несущественно и бесполезно, если оно не отражает подлинной внутренней праведности (ср. Рим. 2:25-29).

вера, действующая любовью Спасительная вера подтверждает свое истинное качество делами любви. Живущий по вере имеет внутри себя любовь к Богу и Христу (ср. Мф. 22:37-40), которая далее сверхъестественным образом имеет результатом благоговейное поклонение, истинное послушание и жертвенную любовь к другим.

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Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

In Jesus Christ; in obtaining salvation through him.

Faith which worketh by love; that confidence in him which has love for its foundation, and which leads to obedience.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". "Family Bible New Testament". American Tract Society. 1851.

John Eadie's Commentary on Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians and Philippians

Galatians 5:6. ᾿εν γὰρ χριστῷ ᾿ιησοῦ οὔτε περιτομή τι ἰσχύει οὔτε ἀκροβυστία—“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision.” The clause ἐκ πίστεως is prominent and regulative in the previous verse, and the reason is given in the verse before us. πίστις stands opposed to everything legal-to law, to ritual, to works of any sort. And why? The reason is introduced by γάρ.

The phrase ἐν χριστῷ ᾿ιησοῦ is sadly diluted if made to mean in lege Christi (Grotius), in Christi regno (Pareus), or Christi judicio (Koppe and Flatt), or as if it were παρὰ χριστῷ, or Christi religio (Morus). The union is that of personal union; and, as Ellicott remarks, the addition of ᾿ιησοῦ is not to be overlooked. Circumcision availeth nothing-does not create a deeper union into Christ Jesus, or excite a livelier hope, or confer a firmer hold on righteousness. This is an idea immediately present to the apostle's mind, and the one which pervades the previous verse, nay, is the very text of the epistle. But he adds-

οὔτε ἀκροβυστία. See under Galatians 2:7. It is a very wrong and perilous thing to be circumcised in order to righteousness, as he has so strenuously insisted; but he is not to be misunderstood, for the mere fact of uncircumcision has in itself no merit, and helps not to a deeper interest or fellowship in Christ. The uncircumcised has nothing to boast of over the circumcised; if both be in Christ, their condition is equal-is influenced neither by the presence of the mere external rite, nor by the want of it.

᾿αλλὰ πίστις δἰ ἀγάπης ἐνεργουμένη—“but faith working through love” is of avail- τι ἰσχύει. The emphasis is on πίστις, as might be expected. The theological dispute is concerning ἐνεργουμένη-whether it has an active or a passive signification. That it may have the latter is undoubted, as Polybius, 1.13, 5; Joseph. Antiq. 15.5, 3. See Rost und Palm sub voce. But ἐνεργεῖσθαι, not used of persons in the New Testament, has uniformly an active meaning-operatur, Vulgate. Winer, § 38, 6; Romans 7:5; 2 Corinthians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 4:12; Ephesians 3:20; Colossians 1:29; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:7; James 5:16. The faith shows from itself its efficacy through love-the real signification of the dynamic middle voice. Through love it operates, manifests its vitality and power- ζῶσα δείκνυται (Theophylact). He on whom faith is reposed, becomes naturally an object of love. If I believe that the Son of God in my nature died for me, and, yet wearing that nature, in it reigns over me, pleads for me, and fills me with His Spirit that I may finally and fully bear His image-such a faith must induce love within me toward Him and towards all that bears His image. And thus the three grand graces are referred to here-faith, hope, and love. 1 Thessalonians 1:3; Colossians 1:4. While faith is child-like and hope is saint-like, love is God-like.

Tertullian, however, renders-fides quae per dilectionem perficitur; Bellarmine and Estius take the same view; and the Council of Trent cites the clause so translated in proof of their favourite doctrine of fides formata, Sess. vi. c. 7. Bisping and Windischmann, though they do not hold the participle to be passive, will not part with the doctrine which the passive is adduced to support; the one saying, that in any case the essential meaning of the clause is unchanged, and the other, that either way it remains a strong proof of the Catholic doctrine. But the theory sets aside the Pauline theology of justification.

The apostle then recurs to the Galatians in direct personal appeal, referring to their previous state of spiritual prosperity, and how they had so quickly declined from it; warning them at the same time of the rapidity of spiritual declension when it once begins, and throwing blame on their seducers whose arts had prevailed.

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Eadie, John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". John Eadie's Commentary on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith working through (or ‘by’) love.’

For in Christ it matters not whether a person is circumcised or uncircumcised. Circumcision makes no difference to a man’s inner life. What matters is faith working in response to the love of Christ, or faith expressing itself in love. Thus circumcision itself is unimportant. It is the attitude of a person’s heart that matters, not whether he is physically circumcised. What matters is to be circumcised in heart (Romans 2:29; Philippians 3:3; Colossians 2:11).

The love that results from faith is the perfect answer to those who react to Paul’s teaching by saying that he gives men licence to behave as they like. For love fulfils all God’s requirements (Galatians 5:13-14).

It should be noted here that all this does not mean that rules are necessarily a bad thing, nor indeed that the Law was a bad thing. As a guide for living and as a guide for knowing the mind of God they may be excellent. But where they become wrong, and indeed unchristian, is when they are used as a means of becoming acceptable to God, as a means of putting men ‘in the right’ with God. Or even as a means of making them somehow superior to other Christians. That is legalism, and Paul in Galatians condemns it out of hand.

When we ‘dechristianise’ people on the grounds that they do not keep the Sabbath, or do not experience special experiences that we experience, or do not observe certain regulations that we have decided are important, we share in the condemnation that Paul pours on the Judaisers. We may to some extent be right about the importance of such things to us, but we are wrong if we make them determining factors about somebody’s Christian status. The only test of that is their faith in the crucified and risen Christ.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Galatians 5:6. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith working (or operative) through love. A most important passage both doctrinally and practically, a remedy against sectarianism, and a key for the solution of many bitter controversies in the history of the Church. Paul positively condemned circumcision as a term of justification and salvation; now he qualifies the condemnation, viewing circumcision as a mere outward form and accidental distinction. A Jewish Christian and a Gentile Christian are equal before God; the circumcision of the one is no advantage, and the uncircumcision of the other is no disadvantage: all depends upon their union with Christ. Comp. Galatians 6:15; 1 Corinthians 7:18-20. ‘For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision.’ May we not add in the very spirit of Paul? ‘neither episcopacy nor presbytery, neither presbytery nor independency, neither immersion nor sprinkling, neither Calvinism nor Arminianism, neither Catholicism nor Protestantism, nor any other isms, however important in their place, are of any account, when compared with the fundamental difference between faith and infidelity, between Christ and anti-Christ. Heaven will embrace members of all creeds and sects, and the sole condition of entrance will be ‘faith working through love.’ The Greek verb ἐνεργομαι here translated ‘working,’ or ‘operative,’ has in the New Testament always the middle sense (comp. Romans 8:5; 2 Corinthians 1:6; Colossians 1:29; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; James 5:16). The passive rendering: ‘wrought’ or ‘made energetic through love,’ must be abandoned.(1) Paul unites here the three cardinal virtues, faith, hope (Galatians 5:5), and love. In this triad of Christian graces ‘consists the whole of Christianity’ (Bengel).

The sentence, ‘faith working through love,’ reconciles the doctrine of Paul with that of James.(1) Comp. Galatians 6:15; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Corinthians 13; 1 Timothy 1:5; James 2:22. Here is the basis for a final settlement of the controversy on the doctrine of justification. Romanism (following exclusively the language of James) teaches justification by faith and works; Protestantism (on the authority of Paul): justification by faith alone; St. Paul and St. James combined: justification and salvation by faith working through love. Man is justified by faith alone, but faith remains not alone, it is the fruitful mother of good works, which are summed up in love to God and love to men. Faith and love are as inseparable as light and heat in the sun. Christ’s merits are the objective and meritorious ground of justification, faith (as the organ of appropriation) is the subjective condition, love or good works are the necessary evidence; without love faith is dead, according to James, or no faith at all, according to Paul. A great deal of misunderstanding in this and other theological controversies has arisen from the different use of terms.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Galatians 5:6. Circumcision conveyed no spiritual blessing in return for its binding pledge of obedience to the Law. In 1 Corinthians 7:17-22 it is placed in the same category as marriage and slavery, outward conditions of life which are neither good nor evil in themselves, but are the appointed portion of some, who should therefore loyally accept the burden or the blessing. Paul not only paid due respect to the Law himself, but even circumcised Timothy, when he desired to take him with him as his minister in Christ amidst Jews, that he might avoid needless offence. But he warned his disciples at the same time that in resorting to it for salvation they were really denying the faith, and forfeiting their birthright of Christian freedom.— . The rendering of our versions by or through love confuses faith with love, as though faith was the result of love or worked through its instrumentality. But the clause really describes a combination of two distinct graces: there may be intense faith without love (cf.1 Corinthians 13:2); but faith ought to work in love, i.e., in a spirit of love. Love is the atmosphere amid which faith should put forth its energy. This force of has been already noted in the case of (Galatians 2:19).— . The middle voice is here employed to describe the inner working of the spirit of man, the active is used for recording God’s work for man in Galatians 2:8.



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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

in. Greek, App-101.

Jesus Christ = Christ Jesus. App-98.

neither, nor. Greek. oute.

availeth. Greek. ischuo. See Acts 6:10. Compare App-172.

which worketh = working. Greek. energeo See Galatians 2:8.

by = through. Greek. dia. App-104.

love, Greek. agape. App-135.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

For - confirming the truth that it is 'from faith' (Galatians 5:5) that the 'waiting hope' springs.

In Jesus Christ - Greek, 'in Christ Jesus.' In union with Christ (the ANOINTED) - that is, Jesus of Nazareth: the mean of which union is faith.

Nor uncircumcision - leveled against those who, being not legalists or Judaizers, think themselves Christians on this ground alone.

Faith which worketh, [ energoumenee (G1754); energetically working; exhibiting its energy] by, [ dia (G1223): through] love. This corresponds to "a new creature" (Galatians 6:15). Thus in Galatians 5:5-6 are the three, "faith," "hope," and "love" (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). Love is not joined with faith in justifying, but is the principle of the works which follow after justification by faith. Let not legalists think that the essence of the law is set at nought in justification by faith only. Nay, "all the law is fulfilled in ... love," the principle on which "faith worketh" (Galatians 5:14). [Energeitai in the New Testament is always used actively: it puts forth energy from itself: the force of the middle voice, generally applied to things: energei active voice, persons.] The Romanist translation is thus untenable, 'which is made perfect by love.' Let them then seek "faith" to fulfill the law. Again, let not those who pride themselves on uncircumcision think that, because the law does not justify, they are free to walk after "the flesh" (Galatians 5:13). Let them seek "love," inseparable from true faith (James 2:8; James 2:12-22). Love is opposed to the enmities which prevailed (Galatians 5:15; Galatians 5:20). The Spirit (Galatians 5:5) is a Spirit of "faith" and "love" (cf. Romans 14:17; 1 Corinthians 7:19).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(6) In Jesus Christ.—When the Christian has entered into those close relations with Christ which his Christianity assumes.

Availeth any thing.—As “shall profit” in Galatians 5:2; avail in the way of justification.

Faith which worketh by love.—Faith in Christ, the devoted attachment to Christ, is the great motive power, the source or mainspring of action; and the law by which that action is regulated is the law of love. (Comp. Galatians 5:13-14 below, and Romans 13:8-10.) Faith makes a man seek to do the will of Christ; love tells him what that will is. It is clear that the faith thus described by St. Paul does not stop short in a mere head notion, and so is in no conflict with the teaching of St. James. (See James 2:14-26.)

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
2,3; 3:28; 6:15; Romans 2:25-29; 3:29-31; 1 Corinthians 7:19; Colossians 3:11
Matthew 25:31-40; 2 Corinthians 5:14; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; Hebrews 11:8,17-19; James 2:14-26; 1 Peter 1:8; 1 John 3:14-20; 4:18-21
Reciprocal: Genesis 17:23 - circumcised;  Genesis 26:5 - GeneralLeviticus 11:9 - GeneralLeviticus 26:41 - their uncircumcised;  Deuteronomy 5:10 - showing;  Deuteronomy 30:15 - GeneralJoshua 5:5 - they had not;  Isaiah 56:6 - to love;  Daniel 4:27 - by showing;  Matthew 7:24 - whosoever;  Matthew 12:50 - do;  Matthew 13:21 - root;  Matthew 25:40 - Inasmuch;  Luke 7:5 - he loveth;  Luke 7:47 - she;  Luke 10:42 - one;  John 2:23 - many;  John 6:27 - Labour not;  John 6:63 - the flesh;  John 13:17 - happy;  John 13:34 - That ye love;  John 14:15 - GeneralJohn 21:15 - lovest;  Acts 15:1 - ye;  Acts 15:9 - put;  Acts 16:3 - and took;  Acts 16:33 - washed;  Romans 2:10 - to every;  Romans 3:30 - GeneralRomans 4:10 - not in circumcision;  Romans 12:10 - kindly;  Romans 16:7 - were;  1 Corinthians 13:1 - have not;  1 Corinthians 13:8 - never;  1 Corinthians 13:13 - faith;  1 Corinthians 16:22 - love;  2 Corinthians 5:16 - know we no;  2 Corinthians 5:17 - be;  2 Corinthians 9:9 - his;  2 Corinthians 12:2 - in Christ;  Ephesians 1:4 - love;  Ephesians 1:15 - faith;  Ephesians 3:17 - being;  Ephesians 4:5 - one faith;  Ephesians 4:16 - edifying;  Ephesians 6:23 - and love;  Philippians 1:7 - I have you in my heart;  Philippians 3:2 - the;  Colossians 1:4 - faith;  Colossians 3:12 - mercies;  1 Thessalonians 3:6 - faith;  1 Thessalonians 3:12 - love;  1 Timothy 1:5 - faith;  1 Timothy 6:2 - because they are;  1 Timothy 6:19 - foundation;  Titus 3:15 - love;  Philemon 1:5 - Hearing;  Hebrews 6:9 - things;  Hebrews 6:10 - work;  Hebrews 10:24 - love;  Hebrews 11:6 - without;  Hebrews 13:1 - GeneralJames 1:27 - To visit;  James 2:18 - Thou;  James 2:22 - faith;  2 Peter 1:9 - lacketh;  1 John 4:21 - General2 John 1:3 - in truth;  Revelation 22:14 - Blessed

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Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books

For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

Now, this passage is a clear concise statement that might answer a question that some men might come up within this area of circumcision. If I am circumcised physically am I bound to live the law? No. If I am not circumcised, should I be? If I am not circumcised am I more spiritual than one that is not? No to both of these questions.

Paul clearly says to the believer that circumcision or uncircumcision is irrelevant to the believer, that living by faith is what is needed. No matter what our parents or the government decided when we were born about circumcision - none of it relates to our spiritual salvation.

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Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". "Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books".

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

6.For—We as Christians wait this faith-justification for the following reason.

Nor uncircumcision—The freedom from, or avoidance of, circumcision will not justify us, nor the performance of circumcision as a mere bodily act condemn us.

Worketh by love—In Paul’s view the true faith always truly worketh. Good works are the direct and immediate effect of true faith. The work is the test of the trueness of the faith. The faith justifies the man before God, as by it the man comes into that position by which justifying grace can flow from God upon him, (see notes, Romans 4:6; Romans 4:24; Romans 6:1-23; Romans 10:10,) and works, by their evidence, justify him as being a man of true faith.

By love—A faith might work evil through hate; but holy faith works good by love. For when we have true faith, God’s approving Spirit pours love into the heart, predisposing to works of all good.


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The Bible Study New Testament

6. For when we are. “In our union with Christ, such things as circumcision have no meaning at all!!! It is that faith which works through love, that God counts!!!”




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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

6.For in Jesus Christ. The reason why believers now wait for the hope of righteousness through the Spirit is, that in Christ, that is, in the kingdom of Christ, or in the Christian church, circumcision with its appendages is abolished; for, by a figure of speech in which a part is taken for the whole, the word Circumcision is put for ceremonies. While he declares that they no longer possess any influence, he does not admit that they were always useless; for he does not maintain that they were repealed till after the revelation of Christ. This enables us to answer another question, Why does he here speak so contemptuously of circumcision, as if it had been of no advantage? The rank which circumcision once held as a sacrament is not now considered. The question is not what was its value before it had been abolished. But under the kingdom of Christ, he pronounces it to be on a level with uncircumcision, because the coming of Christ has put an end to legal ceremonies.

But faith, which worketh by love. The contrast here introduced, between ceremonies and the exercise of love, was intended to prevent the Jews from thinking too highly of themselves, and imagining that they were entitled to some superiority; for towards the close of the Epistle, instead of this clause, he uses the words, a new creature. (Galatians 6:15.) As if he had said, Ceremonies are no longer enjoined by Divine authority; and, if we abound in the exercise of love, all is well. Meanwhile, this does not set aside our sacraments, which are aids to faith but is merely a short announcement of what he had formerly taught as to the spiritual worship of God.

There would be no difficulty in this passage, were it not for the dishonest manner in which it has been tortured by the Papists to uphold the righteousness of works. When they attempt to refute our doctrine, that we are justified by faith alone, they take this line of argument. If the faith which justifies us be that “which worketh by love,” then faith alone does not justify. I answer, they do not comprehend their own silly talk; still less do they comprehend our statements. It is not our doctrine that the faith which justifies is alone; we maintain that it is invariably accompanied by good works; only we contend that faith alone is sufficient for justification. The Papists themselves are accustomed to tear faith after a murderous fashion, sometimes presenting it out of all shape and unaccompanied by love, and at other times, in its true character. We, again, refuse to admit that, in any case, faith can be separated from the Spirit of regeneration; but when the question comes to be in what manner we are justified, we then set aside all works.

With respect to the present passage, Paul enters into no dispute whether love cooperates with faith in justification; but, in order to avoid the appearance of representing Christians as idle and as resembling blocks of wood, he points out what are the true exercises of believers. When you are engaged in discussing the question of justification, beware of allowing any mention to be made of love or of works, but resolutely adhere to the exclusive particle. Paul does not here treat of justification, or assign any part of the praise of it to love. Had he done so, the same argument would prove that circumcision and ceremonies, at a former period, had some share in justifying a sinner. As in Christ Jesus he commends faith accompanied by love, so before the coming of Christ ceremonies were required. But this has nothing to do with obtaining righteousness, as the Papists themselves allow; and neither must it be supposed that love possesses any such influence.

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:6". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.