Jerome, Commentary on Galatians, [J.P. Migne, Editor]. Patrologiae Tomus XXVI. Paris: D’Ambroise, Pres La Barriere D’Enfer, ou Petit-Montrouge, 1845. pp. 307-438.
In Galatians 5:19, the apostle Paul speaks of “works of the flesh,” listing a number of activities which are incompatible with a Christian life. Jerome notes that serious teacing about Christ makes the difference between works of the flesh and the life of the Spirit (Jerome, Galatians, 414). He finds also that the life of the Christian is starkly different from the life of a pagan. Those who were not Christians would consider it good, for instance, to have fulfillment from whatever pleasures they might desire. The entire concept of what is good differs between the Christian and the non-Christian (Jerome, Galatians, 415). Jerome speaks to a number of the significant differences. He further observes that God speaks in numerous places about opposing those who act in opposition to His commands, including those following these works of the flesh (Jerome, Galatians, 416). Angry disputes and heresies likewise are contrary to God’s principles. Jerome observes that therse are often a result of envy, also spoken of negatively throughout Scripture (Jerome, Galatians, 417). Drunkenness and gluttony, both listed among the works of the flesh, are condemned elsewhere in Scripture, while eating and drinking are seen as good. Jerome speaks to the fact that the Sacrament involves eating and drinking but not gluttony or drunkenness. He ties drunkenness and gluttony to luxury and greed (Jerome, Galatians, 418).
Verse 22 continues with the fruit of the Spirit. Jerome observes that it is love, the first listed, which is the chief element “without which the other virtues are not considered to be virtues, and from which are born all things which are good” (Jerome, Galatians, 418, personal translation). He goes on to describe the various fruit springing from love. It is interesting that Jerome distingishes between different aspects of “joy,” preferring gaudium rather than laetitia, since laetitia requires moderation and can come from luxury or titillation (Jerome, Galatians, 419). Jerome observes that true peace, in the Scripture, comes from knowing God in Christ.
Jerome particularly observes that among the fruit of the Spirit, faith “possesses the seventh and very holy place” (Jerome, Galatians, 420, personal translation), and that faith is often classified with hope and love, in a triad. He further refers to Hebrews 11:1 where faith is what is hoped for.
At the end of the list of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. Jerome describes how self control is to characterize the visible portions of Christians’ lives (Jerome, Galatians, 421).
Verse 24 draws a conclusion. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh. They live out the fruit of the Spirit, not the works of the flesh. Jerome observes that this concept differs from that of Hebrews 6:6, where people “re-crucify” Jesus. First, there is a tremendous difference between Christ giving himself to be crucified and our deliberate act of crucifying our fleshly desires (Jerome, Galatians, 422). Further, the effect of Christ’s death is universal, while my denial of my desires will have a relatively small influence on others.
Jerome takes verse 25, an exhortation to walk according to the Spirit, as a counter to those who think there is no clearly definitive siritual guidance in the Scriptures (Jerome, Galatians, 422). The apostle Paul certainly thought people would understand how to walk in the Spirit. At its root, that shows an expectation of a definitive and concrete understanding of Christianity.
In verse 26, Paul cautions against pursuit of things which are empty, or vain. Jerome takes this to be a caution against pursuit of our own desires which arise from envy. Rather, we pursue God’s glory which is not empty in any way (Jerome, Galatians, 423). Jerome describes numerous people in Scripture who sought divine rather than human glory. He then urges pursuit of the character qualities described in Scripture as positive (Jerome, Galatians, 424).