|Galatians Chapter 6|
MY PERSONAL COMMENTARY
THE BOOK OF GALATIANS
By David L. Hannah
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
* Brethren, *
He again refers the them as “brethren” (Gal 1:1, 11; 2:4; 3:15; 4:12, 28, 31; 5:11, 13), indicating that he sees them as genuinely in the family of God.
* if a man *
The UBS New Testament Handbook points out that the Apostle’s probably citing a hypothetical example
“by his use of the generic someone or ‘anyone.’ Yet he probably has in mind a specific situation, in which case, someone would refer to a member of the Christian community.”
The fact that restoration is in mind would indicate that Paul was thinking of a Christian brother falling into sin.
* be overtaken in a fault, *
The UBS New Testament Handbook comments,
“The Greek expression translated is caught in any kind of wrongdoing is capable of two interpretations. First, it could mean that someone is doing something wrong and is found out by others (TEV, also NAB ‘is detected in sin’; Knox ‘found guilty of some fault’). Secondly, it could mean that someone, on a sudden impulse, does something wrong (NEB ‘should do something wrong’; JB ‘misbehaves’). Both are possible because the verb which Paul uses here can mean either ‘detect’ or ‘overtake,’ with the element of surprise.”
Many translations interpret this the first way (NIV, NAS, Today’s English Version, Darby, Bible In Basic English, Good News Bible, Hebrew Names Version, the World English Bible, Weymouth New Testament). Many others interpret it the second way (ASV, New Living Translation, the Living Bible, RSV, the Amplified Bible, Young’s Literal Translation, Analytical Literal Translation, Douay-Rheims Bible, English Majority Text Version, God’s Word, Literal Translation of the Holy Bible, the Message, and Webster). Other Translations render it in a way where it’s difficult to determine which way they interpret this; such as using the word “taken,” but not making it clear if the sin has, or other individuals have, taken them.
Concerning who was being overtaken, I agree with what Wuest has to say concerning the believers in the Galatian churches who were attempting to keep the Law as their means to righteousness, which is walking in the flesh,
“Those Galatians who were adopting the latter method in conformity to the teaching of the Judaizers were finding that sin was creeping into their lives. Since they were most earnestly zealous of living a life of victory over sin, and in conformity to the ethical teachings of the New Testament dispensation, the presence of sin in their lives was a source of surprise to them.”
Whether a Christian brother is caught in sin, or he sins as a result of his being overtaken by temptation, the proper response of the spiritual in the Church is the issue here.
* ye which are spiritual, *
The Apostle’s not talking about those who are accepted by the Church as super-spiritual, a judgment made by recognizing the individual’s gifts, talents, dedication and abstinence. Remembering that the purpose of this Epistle is to teach us the difference between walking in the flesh (the way of the Law; which is the attempt to be made acceptable to God by keeping rules) and walking in the Spirit (the way of the Gospel; which is the understanding that we are made acceptable to God through the sacrifice of His Son, and accepting, by faith, that as the finished work of Calvary) I’m convinced that he’s speaking now to those who are walking in the Spirit.
* restore such an one *
Concerning “restore,” Vincent says
“The word is used of reconciling factions, as Hdt. v. 28; of setting bones; of mending nets, Mar 1:19; of equipping or preparing, Rom 9:22, Heb 10:5; Heb 11:3; of manning a fleet, or supplying an army with provisions. Usually by Paul metaphorically as here. The idea of amendment is prominent: set him to rights: bring him into line.”
The purpose is restoration! Even when Paul asks a Church to discipline a member by withdrawing fellowship (1 Cor 5:11), or to “deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh,” he has restoration in mind, or “that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor 5:5). After discipline he longed for the brother to be restored to the Church (2 Cor 2:6-8). Biblical discipline is sometimes necessary, but never enjoyable. However, in the case of Paul’s example in our current passage there’s no hint that the sin is such to warrant the kind of discipline spoken of to the Corinthians. Nonetheless, sin brings condemnation to the heart (1 John 3:20), and the Church needs to encourage and restore the one who has stumbled.
* in the spirit of meekness; *
Concerning “meekness,” see my earlier notes (Gal 5:23). This “meekness” is one of the nine ingredients of the fruit of the Spirit. Consequently, only those walking in the Spirit can genuinely approach the one who has sinned in this “spirit of meekness.” Why is that? Paul has shown us that walking in the flesh, or trying to keep the Law as the means to spiritual growth and righteousness, can only produce certain things in our lives (Gal 5:19-21), and none of those things is “meekness.” The consequential result of this choice was seen in the final verse of the last Chapter (Gal 5:26). When we attempt to earn what can only be received inevitably pride and competition enter the picture. We then desire to be seen as spiritually superior as a result of our not having yielded to the sin that the individual needing restored has, or as a result of our having spent more time in the Word, in prayer, in Church, our having given more in the offering, or, our having overcome so many old habits, etc. We’re then unable to approach the fallen individual in the spirit of meekness because we can’t genuinely do this lat part.
* considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. *
Concerning “considering,” Vincent quotes another,
“Schmidt (Syn.) defines: ‘To direct one’s attention upon a thing, either in order to obtain it, or because one has a peculiar interest in it, or a duty to fulfill toward it. Also to have an eye to with a view of forming a right judgment.’”
This word is translated as “mark” when the Scripture says, “mark them which cause divisions” (Rom 16:17), and “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.”
It’s translated as “look at,” with the negative added, in Scripture, “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
In other words, when we desire to restore another we must “mark” ourselves as someone capable of falling into sin, and consequently, keep a close eye on ourselves. When we fail to do this we become guilty of falling into the trap our Lord warned us of, the trap of trying to remove a “mote” from the other’s eye when there’s a “beam” in our own eye.
Here’s what we absolutely must know about ourselves before we can ever hope to truly restore another; we ourselves can fall into temptation, and sin. Maybe we’ll never be tempted to fall into the same sin that the individual has, but Paul teaches that when we sin we do the very same thing as the one we judge (Rom 2:1), and James explains that it’s because our sin, as well as the other’s sin, is a breaking of the Law (James 2:10-11). The same standard we use to judge the other condemns us! We must “judge” others the same way God judges us, in light of the Gospel Truth that Jesus took away our sins (John 1:29), having become sin for us (2 Cor 5:21), and satisfied the justice of God by becoming a propitiation for our sins (Rom 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). We are recipients of forgiveness, and therefore ought to become dispensers of forgiveness (Matt 18:21-35). We understand that God loves, forgives, and accepts us on the basis of Who He is, and not on the basis of what we’ve done; and that frees us to love, forgive, and accept others as a result of our being loved, forgiven, and accepted.
If we believe we are loved, forgiven, and accepted as a result of what we’ve earned by keeping the Law, or some other code of conduct, then we’ll only love, forgive, and accept those who we judge to have earned such. Consequently, only those walking in the Spirit; only those who understand God’s grace; only those who understand they’ve earned absolutely nothing from God, but have received His benefits of love, forgiveness, and acceptance as a result of what He did; only those who understand that God is Love (1 John 4:8), and consequently, He lavishes His Love on us (1 John 3:1), in spite of ourselves; are free to love, forgive, and accept others in spite of themselves.
Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
* Bear ye one another’s burdens, *
Concerning “bear,” Robertson says,
“Keep on bearing (present active imperative of bastazo, old word, used of Jesus bearing his Cross in John 19:17,)”
and concerning “burdens,” he says,
“Baros means weight as in Matt 20:12; 2Cor 4:17. It is when one’s load (phortion, Gal 6:5) is about to press one down. Then give help in carrying it.”
The idea is that when any believer turns to the Law as the source of his righteousness he is turning away from the source of the Holy Spirit; consequently, he is frustrating grace (Gal 2:21) and he is left to obey the Law by his own will power, and he will ultimately fail. The Law is a heavy burden to bear, which is why Peter asks, “why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” (Acts 15:10). Many sincere believers who turn to legalism because it sounds religiously viable are soon discouraged with their subsequent failures. As certain as Peter, the other believers present at the Jerusalem Council, and the fathers of the Jewish faith were unable to bear the burden the Law placed on them, neither can any sincere believer today bear the burden legalistic thinking places on him. When we submit to the Law one of two things will happen; one, we will either become self-righteous like the Scribes, Sadducees, Pharisees, and Judaizers of the first-century A.D., because of our hypocrisy in claiming to keep the Law; or two, we will become discouraged because an honest appraisal of our lives reveals that we fail to live up to the standards we impose on ourselves because of the demands of the Law. Then we become burdened down with the load of failure, and need others to bear, with us, the weight of that burden. Those who have discovered the freedom of grace, the freedom of faith, the freedom of acceptance, the freedom of walking in the Spirit, are then called, like Simon of Cyrene (Matt 27:32), to help bear the burden of another.
* and so fulfil the law of Christ. *
The Law of Christ is the Royal Law of Love (John 13:34-35; James 2:8) which, when we walk in it, causes the Law to be fulfilled in us (Rom 13:10; Gal 5:13-14). Jesus identified the two greatest commands of the Law, loving God and loving man (Matt 22:36-40), and John tells us that these two commandments are the commandments we, as Christians, are to keep; the commandments of having faith in God, which pre-supposes loving Him, and love for our fellow man (1 John 3:22-24). When our brother is burdened down with the unrealistic expectations of his being able to keep the Law, which absolutely no man, outside of the Lord Jesus Christ, as ever done before, we fulfill the Law of Christ, the Law of Love, the Royal Law, when we get under the load with him.
How do we, as those who are walking in the Spirit, bear the burden of the one who is walking in the flesh, and consequently, has been overtaken by sin? We encourage them in the Word! We teach them, with the help of the Holy Spirit, how to walk in the Spirit. We show them in the Word that they are loved, they are forgiven, and they are accepted by God.
For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
* For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing *
REVIEW: Walking in the flesh, trying to keep the Law as the means towards righteousness and acceptance with God, produces horrible things (Gal 5:19-21). Walking in the Spirit, accepting by faith that we have become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21) and are now acceptable with Him, produces wonderful fruit (Gal 5:22-23). Since we have been crucified with Christ we count ourselves dead to sin (Gal 5:24). Since salvation and life come through the work of the Holy Spirit we should choose to walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:25). If we do, we’ll not walk in conceit and, consequently, provoke and envy others (Gal 5:26). Rather, when those who choose to walk in the flesh subsequently fall into sin we’ll have the attitude of meekness that comes with understanding that we haven’t deserved any of the blessings of God we’ve received, and we’ll be able to work towards their restoration with the understanding that we’re also in danger of sin whenever we place our confidence in our ability to walk in righteousness (Gal 6:1). The result will be that we’ll place our shoulder, along side of theirs, under the burden of failure that comes to those who try so hard to earn favor with God by keeping the Law (Gal 6:2), and remind them that they are still loved by God, forgiven by God, and accepted by God.
The Apostle now shows us the result of self-confidence in one’s own ability to earn God’s favor by keeping the Law, which is arrogance. Thinking that we’ve attained our goals of abstinence and dedication makes us feel superior to those we judge as failures at attaining those same goals; those who sin. “We did it! If they were sincere they’d do it too!” is what we think. On the other hand, understanding that we’re spiritually bankrupt (Matt 5:3), and that we only stand before God by grace, through faith (Eph 2:8-9) excludes any right we have to boast, or be arrogant (Rom 3:27). This enables us to move with compassion in our dealings with the one who is crushed with the realization that he has sinned.
The man who thinks himself to be something is always wrong! As truly as the man who thinks himself to know something, knows nothing (1 Cor 8:2), the man who thinks himself to be something, is nothing (current verse). None of us are righteous in ourselves (Rom 3:10), none of us consistently does good (Rom 3:12), our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isa 64:6). When it comes to being spiritually good in, and of, ourselves, we are nothing. God forbid we think we are. When we do we become difficult to be around. But what wonderful joy when we come to understand that God loves and accepts us just the way we are; that we, the Church, His people, in the sorry state of Spiritual growth that we sometimes find ourselves in, are the apple of His eye (Zech 2:8). When it comes to inward goodness Paul cries out, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom 7:18), but what makes us “good,” what makes us “something,” is that we are loved by Love Himself.
The Apostle is hoping that the Galatian believers will connect the dots. The Judaizers who are trying to convince them to trust the Law as the means to righteousness are not a compassionate group. Neither will they be if they put their confidence in human performance. Remember, those who loved the Law yelled, “Crucify Him” (John 19”6)!
* he deceiveth himself. *
In explaining the Greek words used here Robertson says, he
“leads his own mind astray.”
He then adds,
“He deceives no one else.”
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown have it,
“literally, ‘he mentally deceives himself.’”
The one with so much confidence in his own goodness has little time for the failures of others. However, when we understand we stand in need of undeserved love, undeserved forgiveness, undeserved acceptance, and that we’ve received it all, we can offer to those who don’t deserve love, who don’t deserve forgiveness, who don’t deserve acceptance, all of those things. Those who understand grace can give grace. Those who only understand achievement can’t give grace. They live in a world of self-deception!
But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.
* But let every man prove his own work, *
Regarding “prove,” Thayer says,
“to test, examine, prove, scrutinize (to see whether a thing is genuine or not), as metals.”
Concerning “work,” the UBS New Testament Handbook mentions,
“primarily in this context it means ‘deed’ or ‘action,’ related to or as proof of character.”
The train of thought in the first three verses of this Chapter is that some were seeing the failures of others and thinking themselves superior to them, and as a result of comparing themselves to them they were thinking that they, themselves, were something special (Gal 6:1-3). Here, Paul is saying, “Stop that!” How the other person is doing has absolutely nothing to do with how you’re doing! God doesn’t grade on the scale!
My responsibility is to carefully examine what I’m doing in the Light of Scripture. Do I measure up to the Standard? That Standard is the Life of Christ. Do I love others the way He loves me (John 13:34-35)? Do I earnestly pray, “Not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42)? Is my conduct conducive with the ideal of laying my life down for others the way Jesus did (1 John 3:16)? Any judgments I make about myself should involve only comparisons to our example, the Lord Jesus Christ.
* and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. *
If a man finds that his own works are acceptable to the scrutiny of the One “with whom we have to do,” and to Who “all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him” (Heb 4:13), the One Whose Word pierces “even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit,” and Who “is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb 4:12), then let that man boast about those works. But he should never boast simply because he thinks his works are superior to someone else’s. If I really believe that I measure up after comparing myself to the One Who God is conforming me to (Rom 8:29), then let me boast. But that very boasting will reveal that my judgment was not based on Truth, for all my righteousness is simply His righteousness credited to my account (2 Cor 5:21). Any good you might see in me is something I have received (1 Cor 4:7) as a gift from above (James 1:17). Again, in the Truth of grace all boasting is excluded (Rom 3:27), except boasting about the Lord (1 Cor 1:31).
NOTE: In the Roman games many ran in a race, but only one received the prize, and you and I are to run this Christian race with that same determination (1 Cor 9:24). However, in the race I run you are not the competition! My only adversary is the devil (1 Pet 5:8)! When Paul finished the course of his race (2 Tim 4:7) Timothy was still running the course of his. Why is that? Timothy was on another track! They weren’t competing against one another. You and I are not competitors for the same prize. We’re running different races, on different courses, against a common foe, the devil. The prize I’ll win is the very prize the devil wants to steal from me (John 10:10), which is the reward Christ will give me for those good works that are judged, by Him, to be “gold, silver, precious stones” (1 Cor 3:12-15).
For every man shall bear his own burden.
* For every man shall bear his own burden. *
The Zondervan NIV Bible Library suggests,
“There is no contradiction between this verse and v. 2, for different words are used for what one is to bear. The word in v. 2 (GK G983) means ‘heavy burdens’–those that are more than one person should carry. The word in this verse (GK G5845) denotes a person’s ‘pack.’ Each Christian has his or her own work to do, so let each one take pride in how they do it.”
“Paul means, no one will have occasion to claim moral superiority to his neighbor, ‘for’ gar (NT:1063) each man’s self-examination will reveal infirmities enough of his own, even though they may not be the same as those of his neighbor. His own burdens will absorb his whole attention, and will leave him no time to compare himself with others.”
In the context of what the Apostle is teaching about I agree with Vincent. Legalists, such as the Judaizers who were trying to lead the Galatian believers to a trusting in the Law of Moses, tend to be judgmental. It doesn’t really seem to matter if they believe they are faithfully keeping the Law, or not. In either case legalism breeds an ugly spirit that causes the legalist to be judgmental. Paul’s warning is that if you turn to Law for the means of attaining to righteousness you will become judgmental as well.
The Judaizers probably used criticism of others as the means to promote the need for Law. They probably taught that Paul’s doctrine of grace was leading to loose living in the Galatian churches. To do this, they would have to point out the failings of others. Then they would teach the leaders of the churches that if they wanted to see “holy” living among the church laity they would have to enforce Law upon them. The Apostle is teaching us that the critical spirit of the Judaizer is ugly to the Lord, because none of us is “holy” enough to be judgmental of another believer who is sincerely trying (Matt 7:1-4; Rom 2:1-3). Also, the Law that the Judaizer would have the Church to enforce on its laity would only cause the individual to be “overtaken” by sin (Gal 6:1), which is all the walk of the flesh, which is man’s attempt to keep the Law, can produce (Gal 5:19-21).
We have enough sin to deal with in our own lives without becoming critical of others. When we understand that God has taken away our sins (John 1:29), forgiven us for Christ’s sake (Eph 4:32), and that He radically loves us (1 John 4:19), we realize that we are accepted. However, we also realize that God’s acceptance of us has nothing to do with any success we think we’ve had in some effort to be “righteous,” but rather it has to do totally with the finished work of Calvary, which reconciled us to God (2 Cor 5:19). Therefore, any boasting, or thinking, that we are better than another believer, is excluded (Rom 3:27). This frees us to carry our own burden (current verse), and at the same time, help our fellow Christian bear his burden when his failure to live up to his expectations have over-loaded him (Gal 6:1). Because we realize we are accepted in spite of ourselves, we are free to accept him in spite of himself.
Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.
* Let him that is taught in the word *
The Galatian believers had been taught in the Word of God by Paul, and then by those Paul left as overseers of the Church. Then the Judaizers entered the picture and began to teach them things contrary to the sound doctrine the Apostle had taught them. Paul’s purpose for writing this Epistle was to remind his readers of the Gospel message they had received from him (Gal 1:6-9), in hopes that they would be convinced of its merit and forsake the foolish teaching of the Judaizers (Gal 3:1-3). He now encourages these Galatian believers, those who have been his students in the Word, to a specific action.
* communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. *
The overwhelming majority of Commentators believe this passage to be a command to students of the Word to financially contribute to the support of their teachers. Most of the Commentators that I personally have access to (Wycliffe; Luther; the Zondervan NIV Bible Library; Clarke; the Geneva Notes; the Peoples New Testament Notes; Gill; Matthew Henry; the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary; the Family New Testament Notes; and Robertson) teach this very thing. As a Pastor I wish I agreed with them. However, though I don’t believe this particular passage is teaching this principle, I do believe there are other passages that do (Matt 10:10; 1 Cor 9:9-14; 1 Tim 5:17-18).
Three of the Commentaries I have access to aren’t clear as to rather they believe this communication is referring to financial support (The Teacher’s Commentary; the UBS New Testament Handbook; and Barnes).
Two Commentaries that I have access to teach what I stand personally convinced this passage is really saying (Vincent; Wuest). Vincent comments,
“The passage is often explained as an injunction to provide for the temporal wants of Christian teachers. But this is entirely foreign to the course of thought, and isolates the verse from the context on both sides of it. As Gal 6:1-5 refer to moral errors, in all good things has naturally the same reference, as do good in Gal 6:10 certainly has. The exhortation therefore is, that the disciple should make common cause with the teacher in everything that is morally good and that promotes salvation.”
A personal note: I highly recommend Wuest’s Commentary on Galatians.
Concerning “communicate,” Thayer says,
“to come into communion or fellowship with, to become a sharer, be made a partner; to enter into fellowship, join one’s self to an associate, make one’s self a sharer or partner.”
The Greek word used here is used seven other times in the New Testament. It’s used two times regarding money; one of those times of “distributing” your money to others (Rom 12:13), and one of those times of believers having “communicated” with Paul by the giving of their money to him (Phil 4:15). In the other five passages in which it’s used it refers to “partaking” of spiritual things (Rom 15:27), of sin (1 Tim 5:22), of flesh and blood (Heb 2:14), of Christ’s suffering (1 Pet 4:13), and of another’s evil deeds (2 John 1:11). In other words, in five of the other seven times this word is used it has nothing to do with money.
I’m convinced that Paul is encouraging the Galatian believers who have been taught by him to enter into fellowship with him, their teacher, “in all good things,” in other words, in doing the right thing. He encouraging them to do what he taught the Corinthian believers to do, which is to follow his example (1 Cor 4:16; 11:1). He’s saying, “I taught you. Now share with me in the doing of these things.”
This interpretation of our current passage causes it to flow with the verses preceding it, and the verses that follow it. He had just taught them to restore the one who sins (Gal 6:1), to demonstrate their love for the sinner by helping him to bear his subsequent burden (Gal 6:2) because they realize they’re not superior to him (Gal 6:3), so they were to quit comparing their lives to his (Gal 6:4), because they had their own burdens to bear (Gal 6:5). That’s what Paul did, and they were to fellowship with him in the doing of this good thing (current verse). Now let’s see how the verses that follow this verse stay on the same subject as the verses preceding it.
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
(The Bible In Basic English) Be not tricked; God is not made sport of: for whatever seed a man puts in, that will he get back as grain.
(Contemporary English Version) You cannot fool God, so don’t make a fool of yourself! You will harvest what you plant.
(God’s Word) Make no mistake about this: You can never make a fool out of God. Whatever you plant is what you’ll harvest.
(The Message) Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest.
(The Living Bible) Don’t be misled. Remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow!
(The Amplified Bible) Do not be deceived and deluded and misled; God will not allow Himself to be sneered at (scorned, disdained, or mocked by mere pretensions or professions, or by His precepts being set aside.) [He inevitably deludes himself who attempts to delude God.] For whatever a man sows, that and that only is what he will reap.
* Be not deceived; God is not mocked: *
Concerning “be not deceived,” the UBS New Testament Handbook suggests,
“It is better, however, to interpret this passive as being reflexive, as TEV does. The general import of what Paul wants to convey is captured by such expressions as ‘make no mistake about it’ (NAB, NEB, Knox), or ‘you can be doubly sure of this.’”
Concerning “mocked,” Thayer says,
“to turn up the nose or sneer at; to mock, deride.”
The idea is that God has certain Spiritual Laws in place, such as the Law of sowing and reaping, and those Laws are what they are. Rather, or not, we like a particular Spiritual Law doesn’t altar that Law in any way. If we think it does then we are deceiving ourselves. God will not allow man to “to turn up the nose” at Him. The Law is what the Law is, and that particular Spiritual Law will always work as surely as the law of gravity will always work.
* for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. *
Concerning the word “that,” Vincent mentions,
“Most emphatic. That and nothing else.”
Whatever a man does, whatever choices he makes, he will receive the consequences of those choices, the harvest of his actions. If a man gives, he’ll receive (Luke 6:38). If he judges others, he’ll be judged (Luke 6:37; Matt 7:1-2). If he condemns, he’ll be condemned (Luke 6:37), and if he forgives, he’ll be forgiven (Luke 6:37; Matt 6:9-15).
In our notes on the next verse we’ll enlarge on the idea more fully that these verses (Gal 6:6-10) are a continuation of Paul’s argument that each Christian must choose rather he’ll walk his Christian life in the flesh or in the Spirit. It’s because I’m convinced that the Apostle hasn’t changed subjects that I agree wish Wuest and Vincent on the meaning of verse six. Sufficient for the moment is that we see this verse in the light of helping our brothers who struggle (Gal 6:1). In other words, when we help our brothers we are planting seed that will come to harvest. We will reap help in the time of our trouble, and if we don’t reap that harvest in the sense of others helping us, then we can be certain that we’ll reap the help of God Himself; we have His Word on it (Prov 19:17).
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
I think it best to look at this verse in its entirety, instead of looking at it in sections.
* For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. *
We see in this verse that Paul hasn’t changed subjects. He’s saying to the Galatian believers what he said to the Roman believers, “they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit” (Rom 8:5). In both cases the subject being discussed is rather a Christian should walk in the flesh (try to keep the Law of Moses, which Paul’s writings demonstrate to be a human effort, powered by the strength of the human will, to gain God’s approval), or walk in the Spirit (believe what God said about us as His children, knowing that what we believe impacts our actions, because faith activates the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives).
Let’s compare these two passages: In both passages he taught his readers that frustration results from human effort to please God (Rom 7:24; Gal 6:1), and it’s because we have the ability to desire to do God’s will, but we don’t have the power to always do the things we desire (Rom 7:18; Gal 5:17). The reason this is true is because sin dwells in our members (Rom 7:23; Gal 5:19), and consequently, when we walk in the flesh (in the power of human endeavor) we end up doing the things we don’t want to do instead of the things we want to do (Rom 7:15-21; Gal 5:19-21). He goes on to tell us that the only way to experience victory is to walk in the Spirit (Rom 8:1, 4; Gal 5:16, 22-23, 25), which is having faith in the fact that the Lord Jesus has won the victory for us (Rom 7:25; 8:2-4; Gal 5:5-6).
In Romans he taught his readers that if they were “after the flesh” they’ll “mind the things of the flesh,” but if they were “after the Spirit” they’ll mind “the things of the Spirit” (Rom 8:5). The UBS New Testament Handbook says, “Paul is simply saying that the way in which one lives is determined by that on which one focuses one’s thoughts. He is speaking of the contrast between a life which is controlled by one’s own human nature and the life which is controlled by God’s Spirit.” The perfect analogy to this Truth is the story of Peter walking on the water (Matt 14:25-33). When his eyes were on Jesus he walked on the water, but when his eyes turned towards the storm he began to sink (Matt 14:29-30). We try to overcome the sins that we struggle with in our flesh (the storm) by giving our full attention to those sins, and to our flesh. “I won’t do that anymore! I’ll control this fleshly desire!” Paul said that when we’re after the flesh, when our goal is to control that flesh, we’ll end up minding the things of the flesh because the mind that’s after the flesh (carnally minded) [carnally is from the same Greek word used for flesh in the previous verse] produces death (Rom 8:5-6).
In Galatians he taught his readers, “he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption,” but, on the other hand, “he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal 6:8). It’s the identical principle he taught in Romans. He’s saying that if you walk in the flesh (subject at hand) you’re sowing to the flesh, and you will reap a harvest of corruption (current verse), such as the works of the flesh (Gal 5:19-21). However, if you walk in the Spirit (subject at hand) you’re sowing to the Spirit, and you will reap a harvest of Spiritual blessings, such as the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), and consummating in eternal life. You might say that walking in the Spirit is a gift that keeps on giving; forever.
Let’s look at the last three verses together:
Paul’s telling his students to fellowship with him in the walking out of the Truth he’s taught them (Gal 6:6).
He’s telling them that to attempt to live any other way is self-deception, and a mocking of God, because the Spiritual Law of sowing and reaping won’t allow it to work any other way (Gal 6:7).
He’s saying that if we try to honor God by keeping the Law, as the means of justification and spiritual growth, then we are walking in/after the flesh (Gal 3:2-3), and a walking after the flesh can only produce the corruption that flesh always produces (Gal 5:19-21). The only way to succeed in Spiritual growth is to walk in the Spirit (current verse).
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
* And let us not be weary in well doing: *
Concerning “weary,” Thayer says,
“to be utterly spiritless, to be wearied out, exhausted.”
Vincent has it,
“Lit. faint or lose heart.”
Concerning “well,” Strong’s Concordance defines it,
“Of uncertain affinity; properly beautiful, but chiefly (figuratively) good (literally or morally), that is, valuable or virtuous (for appearance or use, and thus distinguished from G18, which is properly intrinsic).”
Vine has it,
“beautiful, fair, in appearance.”
The Apostle is encouraging us not to lose heart, but to keep doing the beautiful, the good, the valuable. What is it that we must keep at?
* for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. *
What’s the “well doing” that we’re to keep at? Paul tells us that the student should share with the teacher in the doing of what’s right (Gal 6:6), which comes about as a result of our walking in the Spirit (Gal 5:22-6:5). Why is that? It’s because of the principle of sowing and reaping (Gal 6:7). If we want to reap good things we must sow to the Spirit, which in the context of Paul’s teaching is walking in the Spirit (Gal 6:8; 5:16). Paul’s point here (current verse) is that in spite of the false teaching of the Judaizers the Galatian believers needed to continue to do what Paul taught them, and that’s to walk in the Spirit. When you and I walk in the Spirit it’s because we understand that we’re Spiritually bankrupt (Matt 5:3), that we’re only saved as a result of God’s love and grace towards us (John 3:16-18; Rom 3:24-28), that there’s nothing in us to draw from that’s good (Rom 7:18), and consequently, we have absolutely no confidence in the flesh (Phil 3:3). We can’t perform to the level it would require for us to be acceptable to God, which is the level of perfection, so we accept, by faith, that we’re loved in spite of ourselves (John 3:16; 1 John 2:1-2; 3:1; 4:8, 11, 19); that we’re forgiven in spite of ourselves (Eph 1:7; 1 John 1:9), and that we’re accepted by God in spite of ourselves (Eph 1:6; 2:7). Thank God for His Love and His grace! We’re saved by faith (Eph 2:8-9), so we walk by faith (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:2-3). It’s our believing His Promises that cause us to partake of His nature (2 Pet 1:4).
The Zondervan NIV Bible Library suggests,
“Four months elapse between planting and harvest (John 4:35); and, while it is true that in spiritual sowing the results may occasionally come sooner, more often they take much longer. The best reason for resisting weariness and giving up is that if the necessary preparation is done, the harvest is certain.”
While we’re waiting to reap the harvest of righteousness/right-living (Gal 5:5) we can become discouraged at our failures. In those times of discouragement religious sounding teaching will try to convince us that we have to try harder, but the Scriptures tell us we have to cease from our own works (Heb 4:10). The “fight” that we’re in is a fight of faith (2 Tim 4:7), a struggle to believe God’s Promises in spite of our inner doubts, in spite of the fact that they sometimes are mind-staggering (Rom 4:20), and in spite of the fact that the fulfillment of the Promises is sometimes long in arriving. In spite of all of that the Apostle cries out, “Don’t stop! You’ve sown! The harvest will come!”
NOTE: Some Commentators (the UBS New Testament Handbook, Barnes, and Clarke) believe the “due season” to be referring to the Day of Judgment. The previous verse (Gal 6:8) did mention reaping eternal life, so it definitely comes into play here. Thank God that the primary “reaping” will happen in eternity, where “neither moth nor rust doth corrupt” (Matt 6:19-21), but there’s also a reaping in this life (Luke 6:37-38).
I realize that all of us who sincerely love the Lord wish that our conduct were always pleasing to Him. That’s why legalism is so attractive. We think if we just submit to one more rule, one more commandment, then we’ll be pleasing to Him. The problem is that the very moment we turn to Law we fall from the power of God’s grace, His Divine enablement, at work in our lives, and we are left to succeed in our own ability. See my earlier notes (Gal 2:21; 5:4).
As we’ll see in my notes on the next verse walking in the Spirit produces certain fruit that results in goodness towards others. Keep sowing, and you’ll reap a harvest.
As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
* As we have therefore opportunity, *
“As there is a proper season for reaping, there is likewise a proper season for sowing. As this season comes to us, let us sow to the Spirit by doing good. Comp. Eph 5:16; Col 4:5.”
Because the idea of reaping what we sow is Spiritual Truth, and we will enjoy a harvest in this life, or the next, or both, let’s seize every opportunity that comes our way to sow good seed.
* let us do good unto all men, *
In the Greek text the word “good” here is the same one translated “good things” earlier in this Chapter. The “good things” are the things that the student is to follow the example of the teacher in doing. In my notes on that verse (Gal 6:6) I wrote that Paul was one who restores the individual “overtaken” with sin (Gal 6:1), and who bears the burdens of others (Gal 6:2). We, his students, are to enter into fellowship with him in the doing of those things.
My earlier notes (Gal 6:1) teach that the one who walks in the flesh (trying to impress God by keeping the Law) doesn’t consistently do these things that the Apostle’s talking about, which is doing “good unto all men.” The reason is because the flesh produces “works” that aren’t conducive with these kinds of actions. Legalism produces competition, a trying to be superior to others in the areas of dedication and abstinence. It produces an arrogant attitude that says, “I did it! Why can’t these phonies do it?” On the other hand, walking in the Spirit produces in us the fruit of the Spirit, and that fruit causes us to love and care for the individual who struggles.
We’re instructed to “do good” to everyone, rather they’re a believer, or not. The Apostle believes that only the believer who understands grace can consistently walk in this doing of “good unto all men.” God’s Holy Spirit must be the driving force in our lives if we’re to carry out this instruction.
* especially unto them who are of the household of faith. *
Concerning “especially,” Strong’s says,
“Neuter plural of the superlative of an apparently primary adverb mala (very); (adverb) most (in the greatest degree) or particularly.”
Regarding “household of faith,” Vincent comments,
“belonging to the faith, believers.”
Even though we’re to do good to all men, we’re instructed to give the highest degree of our attention in this area when it comes to fellow Christians. This injunction ties us back to Verse one of this Chapter, where we see a fellow believer overtaken by sin, and we’re instructed to restore him in the “spirit of meekness.”
Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.
* Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand. *
This sounds simple enough. But then again, maybe it’s not! The Commentators disagree on some issues here.
To begin with, concerning “how large a letter,” there are two prevailing thoughts. One thought is that he’s talking about the size, or length, of the Epistle; and the other is that he’s talking about the actual size of the characters of the alphabet he’s writing, or, “What large letters I’m using.”
Concerning the first view Luther says,
“With these words the Apostle intends to draw the Galatians on, ‘I never,’ he says, ‘wrote such a long letter with my own hand to any of the other churches.’ His other epistles he dictated, and only subscribed his greetings and his signature with his own hand.”
Barnes agrees with him, and emphasizes that many others share this view as well,
“Others suppose that he means to refer to the size of the Epistle which he had written. Such is the interpretation of Grotius, Koppe, Bloomfield, Clarke, Locke, Chandler, and is, indeed, the common interpretation, as it is the obvious one. According to this, it was proof of special interest in them, and regard for them, that he had written to them a whole letter with his own hand. Usually he employed an amanuensis, and added his name, with a brief benediction or remark at the close; see the Rom 16:22 note; 1Cor 16:21 note.”
Clarke, Gill, and Matthew Henry also hold this opinion.
Concerning the latter view the Zondervan NIV Bible Library comments,
“There is less agreement about the meaning of the words ‘large letters,’ though most now see this as referring to the size of his letters.”
Wycliffe, the UBS New Testament Handbook, JFB (the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary), Robertson, and Vincent agree with this view.
A second point of disagreement is to exactly what portion of this Epistle was written by Paul. Some believe he simply wrote the closing portion (Gal 6:11-18). Those who hold this point of view include: the UBS New Testament Handbook, the Zondervan NIV Bible Library, Robertson, Wycliffe, and the People’s New Testament Notes.
Others believe he wrote the entire Epistle. Those who hold this view include: Barnes, Clarke, Gill, JFB (the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary), Henry, and Luther.
Vincent believes that the Greek would allow either conclusion.
For those who believe that “how large a letter” refers to the actual size of the characters of the alphabet he’s writing, there a third point of disagreement. Why is he writing such big letters? Some believe it’s because of his deteriorating eye sight, some because his handwriting wasn’t particularly good, and some because they believe it to be a form of emphasis, the way we would use bold letters today.
If scholars can’t agree on these issues then far be it from me to try to convince you of any of these points of view. However, I am persuaded of this one thing, he wrote what he wrote at this point of this Epistle to emphasize his absolute conviction of these things. He wants his readers, his students, to understand that the one who brought them the Gospel, their teacher, is firm on this issue of walking in the Spirit.
As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.
* As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; *
The issue at hand, the reason Paul is writing this Epistle, is to counter the false teaching of the Judaizers. They had placed the Galatian believers in danger of being “removed from him that called” them “into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (Gal 1:6), which wasn’t really another gospel, because it wasn’t good news (Gal 1:7). The issue was so important that the Apostle said that any man who was guilty of preaching “any other gospel” to them “than that which” they had “preached,” should “be accursed,” or even if an angel stepped out of Heaven to preach something different than Paul’s Gospel, then that angel should be accursed (Gal 1:8). The error of the Judaizers was teaching believers to keep the Law of Moses as part of their salvation, and as part of their spiritual growth (Gal 3:2-3). Paul said that believing such a message was “foolish” (Gal 3:1). To the Judaizer the circumcision of Gentile believers was an important theme of this false doctrine (Gal 2:1-5; 5:1-6).
Many Commentators, as we discussed in our notes on the previous verse (Gal 6:11), believe that Paul was using large letters, in the way that you and I would use bold letters or italics, to emphasize strongly his objections to the doctrine of these Judaizers. If that’s the case, picture the comments in this verse, and the next few, as duly emphasized.
The Apostle wants the Galatian believers to ask themselves, “What about these individuals who want us to be circumcised? What’s their real motive?” Paul offers that their motive is “to make a fair shew in the flesh.”
The UBS New Testament Handbook renders the phrase
“to make a fair shew in the flesh” this way, “want to show off and boast about external matters.”
Regarding this phrase the Zondervan NIV Bible Library comments,
“The Greek for this phrase is richer than any single English translation can make it. For one thing, the verb translated ‘to make a good impression’ carries overtones of insincerity; they were not what they seemed. The word ‘outwardly’ is literally, ‘in flesh’ (sarx; see comment on 5:16); it refers to people whom the legalizers wanted to impress, and to circumcision, which had become the touchstone of their religion.”
The Apostle’s point is that the sphere in which these Judaizers live, and that their doctrine impacts, is the sphere of “the flesh.” They lived in the world where only success and failure mattered. It was a world where you were praised when you did well and condemned when you did badly. They were certainly not going to try to “restore” a believer who was “overtaken in a fault” in some misguided “spirit of meekness” (Gal 6:1). Instead, they were going to boast of their own successes in overcoming sin (Gal 5:26) because they had such an inflated opinion of themselves (Gal 6:3). Their doctrine is absolutely useless to anyone who’s living in the sphere of “the Spirit.” “In the flesh” is the arena where we can show off and boast of our accomplishments, but “in the Spirit” all “boasting is excluded” (Rom 3:27). These false teachers knew nothing of the sphere of “the Spirit.” They should have come to the Galatian believers as students, to learn from them what Paul had taught them, instead of as teachers.
* only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. *
Paul was severely persecuted by those who didn’t like his teaching. Who were the people that harmed him the most? They were the Jews. Paul said, “But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now” (Gal 4:29). He had earlier identified Hagar as representing Jerusalem, and her son, Ishmael, the one “born after the flesh,” representing the children of Jerusalem, and stated that they, the Jews, were in bondage (Gal 4:24-25).
The ones who longed to keep the Law resented Paul’s Gospel, and they persecuted him greatly. You can read the account of that persecution in the Book of Acts, Chapters thirteen through twenty-eight. Paul’s now suggesting that if the Judaizers teaching error in the Galatian churches would teach the Truth of the Gospel that they too would be persecuted.
The UBS New Testament Handbook says,
“Paul mentions that their motive in all of this is so that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. The cross here stands for the whole event of the death of Christ together with its significance, particularly that of effecting a relationship with God based, not on circumcision and other external rites, but on faith alone. Anyone preaching the whole meaning of the cross would, of course, be persecuted by Jews.”
NOTE: When I speak of the Jews persecuting the Apostle I’m not denouncing a race of people. It wasn’t their nationality that caused them to persecute Paul, but it was their doctrine. God loves the Jewish people. Paul said, “they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes,” and that one day everyone in the nation will be saved (Rom 11:26-29).
For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.
* For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, *
Regarding “they themselves who are circumcised” the UBS New Testament Handbook comments,
“Paul is referring in a general way to all who accept the validity of circumcision, both in Galatia and elsewhere. Others interpret this to refer to those among the Galatian Gentile Christians who have submitted to circumcision through the influence of the false teachers. A third view is that the reference is to the false teachers themselves.”
I personally agree with the third view. The issue of this entire Epistle is that “false brethren” (Gal 2:4) were teaching that Gentile believers needed to be circumcised (Gal 2:3). This doctrine of circumcision was extremely dangerous because the result of its teaching in the lives of its students is that “Christ shall profit you nothing” (Gal 5:2), that you become “a debtor to do the whole law” (Gal 5:3), that “Christ is become of no effect unto you” (Gal 5:4), and that it causes you to fall “from grace” (Gal 5:4), which is to fall from the Divine enabling of God’s grace in your life [see my earlier notes (Gal 2:9)].
These false teachers had turned to the Law, and as a result were left to their own inner strength to deal with the urgings of sin. Consequently, they failed miserably at keeping the Law they turned to. To make matters worse, the Law they turned to then judged them sinners, because the Law doesn’t except failure. Their system of choice, the Law, failed to accomplish what they expected, yet they continued to practice it, and they continued to make disciples to it.
I think it’s possible that the Apostle is referring to the beginning of this Chapter here. In other words, these false teachers who insisted that you couldn’t be a genuine Christian without being circumcised didn’t even keep, or even attempt to keep, the two greatest commandments of the Law, which were to love God, and to love your fellow man (Matt 22:36-40). He demonstrates this when he speaks of restoring our brother who has been “overtaken” by a fault, and teaches that it’s only possible to those who’re walking in the Spirit (Gal 6:1-5). They were more interested in something external happening in your life than having something internal happen. They’d rather have you become circumcised than to have you fulfill the Law of Christ by caring for your brother (Gal 6:2). Here, Paul scoffs at their “spirituality.”
* that they may glory in your flesh. *
The Zondervan NIV Bible Library makes this point,
“the legalizers persevered in their error because they desired to boast that they had been able to win over the Galatians to Judaism. There were two things wrong with this. (1) It was an attempt to win others to that which was itself bankrupt; for not even those who were circumcised (i.e., Jews) were able to keep the law. (2) It was based on pride; the legalizers wanted to boast in the “flesh” of the Galatians (i.e., in the number of circumcisions). They were trophy hunters and wanted to be able to report on mass ‘conversions’ in Galatia. The humbling parallel would be in the tendency to take pride in counting the number of ‘decisions for Christ’ or ‘baptisms’ today.”
Remember that the Apostle might very well be emphasizing the points he’s making in these verses by using big letters [see my earlier notes (Gal 6:11)]. If that’s the case then he wants us to see how ridiculous these false teachers really are. It’s all about succeeding, and they can’t succeed unless they have some external rules to judge their efforts by. They needed results, something they could stake their claims in. “We had revival! Two hundred Galatians converted to Judaism by receiving circumcision,” they might boast. Paul was disgusted at the very thought of their reasoning.
But 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.
* But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, *
Regarding “God forbid,” the UBS New Testament Handbook comments,
“He starts this verse with a formula which he often uses to deny something vigorously, a formula he has already employed twice in this letter (in Gal 2:17 and 3:21, where it is especially translated By no means! and No, not at all!). The implication of this formula here is that Paul’s ground for boasting is not any of those things which his opponents are boasting of; his ground for boasting is the cross of Christ.”
Concerning “glory,” Strong’s says,
“From some (obsolete) base akin to that of aucheō (to boast) and G2172; to vaunt (in a good or a bad sense).”
Regarding “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the Zondervan NIV Bible Library has this to say,
“It is striking how much of the Gospel is involved in this statement. The cross speaks of the atonement necessitated by human sin (see comment on v. 12). The full name of the Savior speaks of the significance of his person and the role he played (lit., ‘God who saves, the Messiah’). Finally, the pronoun ‘our’ speaks of the personal aspects of Christ’s redemption, for it becomes ‘ours’ through the response of faith.”
The false teachers wanted to boast about their accomplishments for God. That was their motivation for wanting the Galatians to become circumcised (Gal 6:13). However, they’re not alone in this. We who are plagued with the human condition, and consequently, have a fallen nature with sin dwelling in the members of our bodies (Rom 7:23), have a strong tendency to place “self” on the throne of our heart. We become self-confident, self-reliant, self-sufficient, and self-centered. We worry about our self-worth, we become self-accusing, and we use self-abasing humor. Is it any wonder that we look for ways to feel better about ourselves? Consequently, we easily fall into the trap of comparing ourselves with others (Gal 6:4) to determine our worth. If we think we fare well in our comparisons we have self-worth, but if we judge ourselves to fare poorly in these comparisons we suffer low self-esteem. We live in a world where everything we do is judged on the basis of how well others do the same thing. We might sing well, but if we don’t sing as well as the other guy; or, we might teach well, but if we don’t teach as well as the other guy; or, we might have a gift to manage things well, but if we don’t manage as well as the other guy; we are then judged to be inadequate by many. We are then driven to get a better resume, to try harder to be accepted by our peers. These things require us to find a way to measure ourselves against others, and preferably a way where we come out on top. We then boast of our perceived accomplishments, because we feel they set us apart.
The Judaizers were looking for a way to gain the approval of their legalistic peers. “If we can just convert this Gentile crowd to the doctrine of circumcision we’ll be seen as successful!” they must have thought.
Paul, on the other hand, said, “I’ll have none of that! Live in that world if you will, but I’ve found a different sphere of existence, a sphere where I don’t feel accepted one day and rejected the next.” He had found a world where it wasn’t about him versus us. It wasn’t about him at all. It was one hundred percent, totally, absolutely about the Lord Jesus Christ. He had discovered freedom!
He said, “I refuse to brag about anything I’ve done, because it isn’t about me. I’ll only brag about what Jesus has done, because it’s all about Him.” Let’s compare this statement, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (current verse) with what John said, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us” (1 John 4:10). The Gospel message isn’t about what I’ve done for God; it’s about what God’s done for me! It isn’t about my loving Him; it’s about His loving me! Everything I do is simply responding to what He’s done for me, and responding to His love for me. I’m not accepted because I’ve succeeded in the arena of Christian works; I’m accepted because the Lord Jesus Christ took away my sins (John 1:29), and clothed me with His righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). I’m not loved because I’m lovable; I’m loved because God is Love (1 John 4:8). The subsequent consequence is that I love Him back (1 John 4:19), and my actions reflect the way I now respond to what He has done for me, and to the way He loves me.
You are loved! You are forgiven! You are accepted! That’s the Gospel story! That’s the Gospel Truth! It’s true because of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ! That’s what we boast about.
* by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. *
When we were born-again (John 3:3), we were born of the Spirit (John 3:5-7), and the Holy Spirit baptized us into the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13). When that happened we were baptized into His death (Rom 6:3), into His crucifixion (Rom 6:6). At that moment we died to sin (Rom 6:2, 6-7), we died to the Law (Gal 2:19-20), and we died to the world (current verse).
What’s he referring to when he says “the world”? I like what the UBS New Testament Handbook has to say on this subject, “The word ‘world’ is used in Scripture in so many ways that it is hard to ascertain what it really means here. Some take it to mean the whole natural order, insofar as it is independent of the control of the Holy Spirit. It is more likely, however, that world is used here to describe a way of life in which human worth is measured by external circumstances. In this meaning, it is similar to external matters (‘flesh’) in verse 12. To be dead to this kind of world, then, is to regard all those external factors as without value, insofar as one’s being related properly to God is concerned.”
As I’ve said before, if you want to know what he’s talking about, then see what he’s talking about! In other words, what’s the context? The Judaizers were living out a doctrine in which their relationship with God was based on external successes, on living up to some external standard. And this is what they were teaching the Galatian believers that they needed to do. Paul taught, that in Christ, we are dead to that type of “world,” a place where our acceptance is judged on the basis of human standards. Our acceptance is not based on any success or failure on our part, but rather, it’s based on the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, and our faith in Him.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. *
* For in Christ Jesus *
The sphere of existence that Paul discovered (see notes on previous verse) is here referred to as “in Christ Jesus.” The Holy Spirit immersed us into one body, the body of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor 12:13), and that immersion, that baptism, placed us believers in the sphere of being “into Jesus Christ” (Rom 6:3). This sphere of existence is where all spiritual blessings are found (Eph 1:3); things like acceptance (Eph 1:6), our redemption and forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7), an inheritance (Eph 1:11), and the joy of knowing we are “sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” (Eph 1:13).
* neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, *
The UBS New Testament Handbook says,
“This verse is quite similar to Gal 5:6. The idea is that the matter of being circumcised or not is entirely irrelevant insofar as relationship with God is concerned.”
The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary comments,
“Not only are they of no avail, but they are nothing. So far are they from being matter for ‘glorying,’ that they are ‘nothing.’ But Christ’s cross is ‘all in all,’ as a subject for glorying, in ‘the new creature’”
IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS, HIS LOVE FOR US, AND WHERE THAT LOVE TOOK HIM, TO THE CROSS!! Becoming circumcised for religious reasons has absolutely no merit. Remaining uncircumcised for religious reasons ha absolutely no merit. We can’t trust in a conversion to the doctrine of circumcision, and boast about our relationship with Christ as a result of it. We can’t trust in our refusal to convert to the doctrine of circumcision, and boast about how our refusal to be circumcised has given us a good relationship with Christ. Neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision, has any spiritual value in and of itself.
* but a new creature. *
The UBS New Testament Handbook has the following to say,
“The expression new creature can also be translated as ‘new creation’ (RSV, NEB). In ‘new creation’ the emphasis is on the act of God in effecting a new thing, while in new creature it is on the result of God’s action.”
However, Vincent teaches,
“Here of the thing created, not of the act of creating. The phrase was common in Jewish writers for one brought to the knowledge of the true God.”
The Apostle is stating emphatically that the only important issue is becoming a new creature in Christ Jesus (2 Cor 5:17), and that issue is only made possible as a result of the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ (last verse).
And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
* And as many as walk according to this rule, *
Concerning “rule,” Thayer says,
“rule (kanon) – a rod or straight piece of rounded wood to which any thing is fastened to keep it straight; a measuring rod, rule; a carpenter’s line or measuring tape; the measure of a leap, as in the Olympic games; a definitely bounded or fixed space within the limits of which one’s power of influence is confined; the province assigned one; one’s sphere of activity; metaphorically any rule or standard, a principle or law of investigating, judging, living, acting.”
“Used by Paul only. Originally, a straight rod or ruler. Hence a carpenter’s rule. Metaphorically, that which measures or determines anything, in morals, art, or language. The Alexandrian grammarians spoke of the classic Greek authors collectively as the canon or standard of the pure language. In later Greek it was used to denote a fixed tax. In Christian literature it came to signify the standard of faith or of Christian teaching; the creed; the rule of Church discipline, and the authorized collection of sacred writings. Hence canon of Scripture.”
As you can see from Vincent’s notes, this is the Greek word (kanon) from which we get the word “canon,” as in canon of Scripture.
What rule is he talking about here, what “standard of faith,” what “creed”? It’s the rule that external rites avail nothing, but being born-again and becoming a new creature in Christ is what matters (last verse, Gal 6:15), and nothing we do, in the sense of being good or bad, affects that, but only what the Lord Jesus did at the cross (Gal 6:14), and our subsequent faith in Him (Eph 2:8-9). In other words, “this rule” we’re to walk by is the Gospel that Paul taught.
* peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. *
The Zondervan NIV Bible Library offers these comments on this verse,
“This statement makes three points: (1) the peace and mercy of God are given only to those who adhere to this Gospel; (2) all who believe the Gospel have an obligation to continue walking in it; and (3) these, and these only, are the true Israel. ‘Rule’ here clearly refers to the heart of the Gospel just enunciated, though it may also be applied to the ‘canon’ of Scripture and to the whole of Christian doctrine. There can be no peace or mercy for the church when those responsible for following this ‘rule’ depart from it.”
Concerning “the Israel of God,” Vincent adds,
“The kai (NT:2532) ‘and’ may be simply connective, in which case ‘the Israel of God’ may be different from ‘as many as walk,’ etc., and may mean truly converted Jews. Or the kai (NT:2532) may be explicative, in which case ‘the Israel of God’ will define and emphasize ‘as many as,’ etc., and will mean the whole body of Christians, Jewish and Gentile.”
The peace of God comes into our lives when we realize that we have peace with God. That realization only comes when we understand the Gospel message, the Good News that we’re justified as a result of what Jesus did on Calvary, and not anything we’ve done. When we realize that our acceptance by God isn’t consequential to our actions, then we can understand that the cross of Christ, which did bring us acceptance with God, is a constant in Heaven. It doesn’t change from day to day, and moment to moment, like our actions do. Since our acceptance is based on the cross of Christ, and since by that ‘one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Heb 10:14), we come to understand we, as believers, are always at peace with God, and that knowledge allows us to enjoy the peace of God.
From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
* From henceforth let no man trouble me: *
The Zondervan NIV Bible Library suggests,
“He does not want them to trouble him any longer by giving way to the legalistic heresies, for he has suffered enough already. It would be far better if the churches he founded at such cost would assume their own share of suffering, above all by resisting the kind of teaching that the legalizers upheld and therefore, if necessary, by enduring whatever persecution might follow.”
Let’s remember again that he may be writing the last portion of this Epistle with large letters to emphasize these points (Gal 6:11). He seems to be saying, “I taught you this Gospel when I was with you (Gal 1:6-9; 3:1), and now I’ve had to re-teach it to you in this Epistle. Let that suffice you! Don’t bother me with this issue again!”
* for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. *
John Gill mentions,
“The allusion is either to servants and soldiers, who, when taken into service, used to have some particular mark put upon them, that they might be known to be such an one’s servant, or soldier.”
“These genuine and honorable marks in the body contrast strikingly with the ritualistic mark of circumcision the legalizers wished to impose on the Galatians.”
“But if any wished to question his devotion to Christ, let them realize that the marks of persecution which he bore in his body, scars suffered for the sake of the Lord Jesus, spoke more eloquently than the body marks (circumcision) which the Judaizers loved to impose on others as a proof of their zeal.”
Paul had written to the Galatian believers that the reason the Judaizers wanted them to become circumcised was “to make a fair shew in the flesh” (Gal 6:12), and so they could “glory in” their “flesh” (Gal 6:13). Now the Apostle draws a comparison between the “mark” of circumcision that these false teachers bragged about, and the “marks of the Lord Jesus” that he bore in his body (current verse).
Also, he had said that the Judaizers had preached circumcision in order to avoid persecution (Gal 6:12), and now he’s pointing them to the cost he’s paid to preach this Gospel of his. And to think, many in his day, and ours, suggest that the Gospel of grace is a perverted message of “easy-believism.” Tell Paul that!
Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
* Brethren, *
One final time the Apostle reminds the Galatian believers that they are saved, they are in the family of God, and as such they are “brethren,” one with the other. This is the ninth time he referred to them this way (Gal 1:11; 3:15; 4:12, 28, 31; 5:11, 13; 6:1). In spite of the fact that he needed to correct the error they were leaning towards, he still saw them as members of the family of God.
Brethren, in spite of our imperfections, in spite of areas where our doctrine leaves much to be desired, we who are believers, we who have placed our faith in the Lord Jesus are genuinely saved. And the reason is that our boast is in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ (Gal 6:14), and not in any action (Gal 2L16), or any orthodoxy of ours (Gal 6:15).
* the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. *
Paul ends all of his Epistles this way (Rom 16:24; 1 Cor 16:23; 2 Cor 13:14; Eph 6:24; Phil 4:23; Col 4:18; 1 Thess 5:28; 2 Thess 3:18; 1 Tim 6:21; 2 Tim 4:22; Titus 3:15; Phil 1:25). If he wrote the book of Hebrews he also ended it this way (Heb 13:25). None of the other Epistles, which are written by James, Peter, John, and Jude, end this way. It’s unique to Paul, and whoever wrote Hebrews.
* Amen. *
The UBS New Testament Handbook comments, “Many translators simply transliterate the word Amen since it is widely used in Christian circles for the conclusion of a prayer. In this particular context a transliteration would be quite fitting. However, Amen may be translated as ‘Indeed, let it be so,’ or ‘That is just what should be.’ A number of languages have their own equivalents to Amen, more or less literally translatable as ‘Yes, indeed,’ or ‘And so it should be.’”
A CLOSING NOTE: The message of this Epistle is simple. We were saved by faith, and we must now walk by faith (Gal 3:2-3), which agrees with what he said to the believers in Rome (Rom 1:16). We must never trust ourselves, or as he told the Philippian believers, we must never put our confidence in our flesh (Phil 3:3). We must continue to trust God, to believe His Promises, so that we can be “made perfect” (Gal 3:3), or as Peter put it, so that we “might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pet 1:4). This walking in faith is what Paul calls walking in the Spirit (Gal 3:2-3), and it’s the only way we’ll ever partake of Divine Nature (Gal 5:22-23). That’s the message of this Epistle.
Walk of Grace Chapel, Council Bluffs Church