“Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand."
This is, literally, “with what large letters;” relating to the size of the letters which he was obliged to make because of his defective eyesight.
This itself was an appeal which would tenderly touch the Galatians, and revive in them the memory of the blessedness of their first days in Christianity; for, in the fifteenth verse of the fourth chapter, he says: “Where is then the blessedness ye spoke of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.” This was their love to him when they enjoyed the blessedness of the true gospel, which they had received, and Paul gladly witnessed to it. But there never would have been any need, nor any ground for thought, of plucking out their eyes and giving them to him if there had not been in him a manifest need of eyes.
This defect in his eyes was the result of the consuming glory of Christ that day when the Lord appeared to him as he was on his way to Damascus; for, when the vision was past, he was unable to see; and “they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.” And there “he was three days without sight,” until Ananias was sent by the Lord to put his hand on him “that he might receive his sight.” And when Ananias had so done, “immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales.” But forever there was thus in his flesh that mark which he calls “my temptation which was in my flesh.”
And now, in his last words to the Galatians, when he says, “Ye see with what large letters I have written unto you with mine own hand,” it is a delicate and touching way in which he would call their attention to this affliction which they, in their love at the first, would have remedied by plucking out their own eyes and giving them to him. This expression shows to them that he had written this whole letter with his own hand in spite of this affliction, which obliged him to write in exceptionally large letters, in order that he himself might be able to see his writing. This of itself would be a powerful testimony to them of his tender love still for them, and that, whatever he had said, in none of it was there any ill-feeling toward them, but a great fear lest they should be caused to lose the great salvation that had been so freely given to them.
This writing of a whole letter in Paul’s own hand was unusual. He usually wrote the body of a letter by an amanuensis. For instance, the actual script of the letter to the Romans was written by Terius. Rom. 16:22. But always, Paul would sign the letter with his own name, with his own hand, as, for instance, 1 Cor. 16:21: “The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand;” Col. 4:18: “The salutation by the hand of Paul;” and 2 Thess. 3:17: “The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand; which is the token in every epistle: so I write.” This, indeed, became essential, because 2 Thess. 2:2 shows that there were those who were circulating letters as from Paul, which were fraudulent.
“As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.”
It must be borne in mind that those who had confused the Galatians and caused all the trouble there were “Pharisees, which believed.” They were Pharisees at first, and, still holding to their pharisaism, professed to believe in Jesus; and this had made their profession of Christianity merely pharisaism. And pure Christianity at that time, as well as in every other time, could not be made to fit well with pharisaism; because, at that time, it was a very humiliating thing to be known as a Christian outright. The One in whom all Christianity centered had only lately been crucified as a malefactor; had thus died the most disgraceful death, and by the most disgraceful means, known to mankind. In addition to this, there was persecution attached to the outright profession of Christianity, but the Pharisees, still holding to their pride, had not discerned the true glory of the cross of Christ so that they could with confidence, and even with joy, suffer persecution. But in the way of circumcision there was no persecution: that was the way of glory. True, it was worldly glory; it was pharisaic glory; it was self-glory; but that being the only glory, which they knew, to them it was the true way of glory. Consequently, so long as they could hold to circumcision, they would escape persecution.
Thus the controversy centered in the question as to the true way to glory - whether it was by circumcision, or by the cross of Christ. By the pride of the Pharisees circumcision was exalted to the pinnacle of the true way of glory. The cross, as already stated, was the most degrading thing in the world. But behold here the illustration of the great truth that “that which is highly esteemed amongst men is abomination in the sight of God.” The Pharisees had made circumcision the greatest of all things, and the perfect highway to glory, while they, and all mankind, looked upon the way of the cross as the most disgraceful thing that could ever come to a man. But that way of the cross, God shows to be indeed the highway of glory. The way which men most despise is the way in which God would most manifest his glory: the way in which men most gloried is indeed the way which is most truly to be despised.
Therefore, it is the true, triumphant exclamation of the Christian everywhere and forever: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.”
“And as many as walk according to this rule, peace to them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” And this is forever true; as many as walk by this rule of the cross of Christ, and of the glorying in the cross of Christ; as many as walk by this rule of being by the cross of Christ crucified unto the world, and the world unto them; as many as walk by this rule that neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but only a new creature avails in Christ Jesus, —“as many a walk according to THIS RULE, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.”
“From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” These marks of the Lord Jesus were those, which Paul received in the scourgings, the stonings, and all of the other hardships, which left their impress upon him. And another translation gives it: “I the brands of the Lord Jesus in my body bear.” These things were the token to all who might see, that he belonged to Christ; these were the marks, the brands, which he bore, signifying Christ's ownership of him. And so it is with the Christian forever.
“Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”
As to the additional subscription: “Unto the Galatians written from Rome,” it is but proper to state that the letter to the Galatians was not written from Rome at all, but from Corinth.
[Advent Review and Sabbath Herald | November 13, 1900]