The Berean Expositor
Volume 40 - Page 120 of 254
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It is evident from these different attempts to give, in English, the meaning of this
passage, that it is one of great difficulty. We cannot hope to succeed where so many
eminently fitted for the task have scored only partial success, but we can examine the
words in question and so provide the reader with a background to whatever translation
the limitation of language shall ultimately compel us to accept.
Katergethete apo Christou. The root of the word katargeo is erg `work', a word that
the science of physics has made familiar to the English ear. The verb used in Gal. 5: 4 is
the aorist passive, and is made up of kata and argos. Kata often loses its distinctive force
of `down', in combination; it usually intensifies the action of the verb.
Argos, meaning idle, is composed of a `not', and ergon `work'. Katargeo does not
occur in the Septuagint version of the O.T. so there is no appeal to Hebrew usage or
equivalents. It occurs in the N.T. 27 times, of which number 1 is used by Luke and the
remaining 26 by Paul. We will not survey the whole of these 26 occurrences, although
for a full understanding not one can be passed over, but for our present purpose we must
be content with the occurrences found in the parallel epistle to the Romans. They are 6 in
number, and are as follows:
Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? (Rom. 3: 3).
Do we then make void the law through faith? (3: 31).
Faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect. (4: 14).
That the body of sin might be destroyed. (6: 6).
If the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. (7: 2).
But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held. (7: 6).
In the first two occurrences in Romans, the verb katargeo is active, in the remaining
four it is passive. The references in Rom. 7: show how the word can be used in the
sense of complete nullification, abrogation or evacuation of law--the law being
completely abrogated and devoid of power by death. It is in this sense that the Apostle
uses it in Gal. 5: 4. The believer who puts himself under grace, dies to the law. In the
one case the law has nothing to do with him, in the other Christ can do nothing for him.
The A.V. says "Christ is become of no effect unto you" whereas the original says
rather `You are beyond the operation of Christ'. Just as Paul could use the word `free' in
an evil sense on Rom. 6: 20 "when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from
righteousness" so he used katargeo here.
In the estimate of Paul, and in all who know the truth, conversion and justification is
not a mere change of opinion, it is a matter of death followed by newness of life.
"I by law to law died, that I might live unto God" (Gal. 2: 19).
If after that I "build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor"
(Gal. 2: 18).
If after being delivered from the bondage of idolatry, I turn again to weak and
beggarly elements, what place can Christ have in my life or future?