Tuesday, 7 June 2016
Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:26
Paul’s admonition here is correctly translated by the NKJV in using the word “become.” He is not saying that they are any of these things, but they are to be careful to not become any of these things. The reason must be attributed to the false teachings of the Judaizers. They crept in and had taught their destructive heresy concerning inserting deeds of the law in order to be justified. In so doing, it would naturally lead to each of these things, just as it did among the Jews where there was always a subtle competition as to who was the most pious because of their deeds of the flesh.
Paul’s warning then has been to put away works of the flesh and to trust in the work of Christ. In so doing, they would not become “conceited.” The Greek word gives exactly this idea. It speaks of empty glory, self-deluded conceit which is motivated by “delusions of grandeur,” and boasting in what there is absolutely nothing to boast about. When one is under grace and knows it, then there is no reason at all to act in this way. The boasting one would exhibit would be in the One who bestowed the grace; not in self (see Galatians 6:14).
The words “provoking one another” are given next because one who is boastful about himself will naturally provoke those around them. In their supposed superiority, they will be haughty and arrogant and look down on those around them. On the contrary, when one understands the grace which has been bestowed upon them, then they should naturally look at others as on an equal footing. Christians all belong to the same family and they will all share in the same blessing because of their adoption by God. And so what is there to boast in? And with nothing to boast in, there will be no reason to provoke those around them.
Likewise, Paul says that they should not be “envying one another.” It would make no sense for someone to envy someone else who has received exactly the same blessing as they did. Grace is unmerited favor. To envy someone else’s grace is illogical.
Many scholars look at Paul’s words of this verse in merely a societal context, attributing it to wealth, position, status, or possessions. It is true that we shouldn’t either boast in these things, or be envious of others who have these things. However, Paul’s words here must be kept in context. He has been speaking of deeds of the flesh contrasting fruits of the Spirit. Therefore, his words are preeminently referring to spiritual matters and life in Christ.
Life application: Let us never assume that the fruits of the Spirit that we possess somehow make us better than those around us. Further, let us never be envious of someone who has a very strong and vital ministry or ability within the body. Each of us was saved by grace, and each of us has gifts of the Spirit which have been given according to the wisdom of God. The best thing we can to is to cultivate those gifts which we have been given, and do so to His glory.
You have been so very good to us, O God. Each of us who have been adopted into son-ship because of the work of Christ has been blessed with grace. How then can we boast over others who have been saved by the same grace? And why should we feel the least bit envious of the gifts of the Spirit that another possesses? They were portioned out by You for Your purposes. Instead, help us to cultivate our own gifts and to be content that we are serving You with those gifts which came from You in the first place. Great are You, O God, for having included us into Your family! Amen.