The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Galatians 5:1-6

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 12, 2010

Gal 5:1  Stand fast and be not held again under the yoke of bondage.

Be not held again under the yoke of bondage. You once served idols and devils: why do you now wish to serve the shadows and burdensome ceremonies of the Mosaic law? The Greek for held again is rendered by the Vulgate contained, by Vatablus implicated, by Erasmus ensnared. The Judaisers, says S. Paul, are enticing you to their law as into a net, in which, if you are once entangled, you will be unable to escape from its legal windings and toils.

Gal 5:2  Behold, I Paul tell you, that if you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.

If you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. If you trust to circumcision as necessary to salvation, Christ and His religion will be of no avail to you; but you seem to be putting your trust in this under the tuition of the Judaisers, although you were Gentiles, and baptized as such. Why do you tack on circumcision to baptism now? There can be no other reason for this proceeding except your belief that baptism by itself is insufficient, and needs to be supplemented by circumcision. Certainly you have not the Jews’ pretext that they use circumcision in deference to their law. This may be good excuse for them; it is none for you.

Gal 5:3  And I testify again to every man circumcising himself that he is a debtor to do the whole law.

I testify. He who is circumcised thereby proclaims his allegiance to the Jewish Church, its laws and its obligations, just as one who is baptized does with regard to the Christian Church. The Apostle is seeking to dissuade the Galatians by a reason drawn from the burdensome character of the yoke of the Mosaic law.

Gal 5:4  You are made void of Christ, you who are justified in the law: you are fallen from grace.

You are made void of Christ. You are outside the redemption wrought by Christ, deprived of His merits, and void of His grace.

You who are justified in the law. Who seek for righteousness from circumcision and other legal rites. By distrusting the grace of Christ and preferring the law, you have treated Christ with ingratitude, and in consequence He has withdrawn His grace from you. The Galatians, says S. Paul, were once filled with the grace of Christ, like a well with water; but they have now emptied it all out, and so lost the fruits of His Passion. Or, to put it in another way, Christ has emptied His Church of them, because of their want of faith. [Note.—The Vulgate rendering here is evacuati estis.]

Vatablus [as A.V.] interprets the term to mean that Christ had become of no effect, His labour had been thrown away, His Passion made fruitless by the withdrawal of His grace. The very name of Christian was no longer due to them, and should be dropped; or if they wished to retain it, they must say farewell to the law. Cf. a similar expression in Rom 7:6.

Gal 5:5  For we in spirit, by faith, wait for the hope of justice.

For we in spirit, by faith, wait for the hope of justice. This is to prove that the Judaisers, in seeking to be justified by the law, are no longer Christians; for we, he says, who are Christians indeed look for the promised righteousness, not from the law, but from the Spirit, through faith in Christ.

It is faith which excites hope, and so causes a man to pray for that grace by which we are justified. Some take the hope of righteousness here for eternal glory, which we hope to obtain through righteousness. Others, and better, take it to be that righteousness which we all pray and sigh for, which the Jews seek through their law, and Christians from Christ.

Gal 5:6  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing nor uncircumcision: but faith that worketh by Charity.

For in Christ Jesus, &c. In the Church neither Judaism nor Gentilism is of any avail towards the life of holiness and bliss. Judaism is depreciated here by being classed with Gentilism. The only effectual power is faith—not a faith that is barren of works, but that which worketh by love, and manifests itself in works of charity. Such a faith was that of the Magdalene when she bathed Christ’s feet with her tears. But a faith which shows no works of charity is, as Anselm says, the faith, not of Christians, but of devils. The Protestants who attribute justification to faith alone should remark this. Our brother Campian, the martyr of England, when in prison and disputing with the Lutherans, refuted them by this syllogism: That faith which avails before God to justify is, as the Apostle testifies, a faith which worketh by love; therefore it is obvious that it is united to charity. But the justifying faith of the Lutherans is not a faith that worketh by love, for it is, they say, alone, and hence is not accompanied by charity; therefore, the faith which they lay down is not a faith that justifies before God. To say, then, that faith is alone, and that such a faith justifies, is a contradiction. If faith is to justify, it must be accompanied by charity; and when it is so accompanied it is no longer alone.

It should be remarked that faith does not work by means of charity as an efficient cause works by its instrument, but in the way that beat in the form of fire kindles wood. Faith through charity does good works, by performing acts of charity towards God and our neighbour, and by determining, the nature of acts of other virtues. For charity is not an essential but an accidental form, which gives to faith and all good works their life, validity, and merit, in due relation to their ultimate end. It gives to faith and all other virtues (1.) their character of virtue. Where charity is, vice cannot be; but virtue reigns enthroned as queen by charity, which ennobles also every act, so that the man under its sway may be called absolutely virtuous, righteous, and holy. (2.) Charity also gives the acts of virtue their dignity and power of winning merit, for it makes a man the friend and son of God, and so dignifies his works that God promises them eternal rewards. (3.) Charity also determines the relation of the various acts of virtue to their ultimate end, inasmuch as it directs to God the whole man, and all that he does, says, or thinks. So S. Thomas.

The Greek word for worketh denotes internal efficacy, hidden power. Faith informed by charity, having charity as its soul, by its inward and spiritual power, worketh the living works of virtue.

One Response to “Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Galatians 5:1-6”

  1. […] Cornelius a Lapide on Today’s First Reading (Gal 5:1-6). Available 12:05 AM EST. […]

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