THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN GALATIANS CHAPTER 6
6:1 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.
6:2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
6:3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
6:4 But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.
6:5 For every man shall bear his own burden.
6:6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.
6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
6:8 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.
6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
6:10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
6:11 Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.
6:12 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.
6:13 For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.
6:14 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.
6:15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
6:16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
6:17 From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
6:18 Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
SURVEY OF THE SECTION.
Having spoken of the fruit of the Spirit in chapter 5, the apostle now gives instances of how those who are Christ’s will manifest that fruit in their lives. The apostle has two matters on his mind as he brings the epistle to a close. First, he wants to dispel the notion that those who know the grace of God in Christ are unconcerned about works. He uses the dramatic phrase “the law of Christ”, as he deals with this. Second, that what he has said about the Law given to Israel does not in any way mean that there is no future for that nation. Hence he uses the phrase “the Israel of God” to emphasise that God still has that nation in mind, and will one day bring it into the good of the grace Christians know already.
STRUCTURE OF THE SECTION
(a) Verses 1-10 The law of Christ and its manifestation.
(b) Verses 11-18 The cross of Christ and its meaning.
6:1-10 (a) The law of Christ and its manifestation.
6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault- this is a continuation of the exhortations at the end of chapter 5, where the apostle warns against provoking, envying, and self-seeking. The test is now applied. What will be their reaction to a brother in need of help? Those who walk in the flesh will either have been responsible for his fall, or will not care that he has fallen. Those who walk after the Spirit will seek to help and rescue. It was those who lagged behind in Israel’s march across the wilderness who fell a prey to the enemy. Hence the warnings about being hindered, 5:7, for it rendered them vulnerable. Ye which are spiritual- those who are walking in the Spirit, and are therefore morally qualified to help. Literally it is, “Ye, the spiritual ones”, so the idea is of more than one spiritual person on his own. Restore such an one in the spirit of meekness- The spirit of meekness is an attitude of surrender to God’s will, which ensures that the path walked by such a one is pleasing to the Lord, being a constituent part of the fruit of the Spirit, 5:23. It is the opposite of vain-glory, 5:26, which selfishly seeks one’s own advancement even at the expense of others. The word restore is used of mending nets, so the idea is of restoration to usefulness, not restoration to assembly fellowship after excommunication, for that is a matter for the whole assembly. Considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted- the Devil is opposed to the restoration of believers to usefulness, so will make those who seek to effect it a special target. The word for considering is “skope”, which is part of the word for overseer, “episkope”. Those who “look over” the welfare of others should first scrutinize their own lives. Note that the apostle has reverted to the singular, so individuals are to consider themselves personally. It may be that by learning of the specific details surrounding a believer’s fault the spiritual brother is brought into contact with things he is not accustomed to facing, and this may give the enemy an opportunity to tempt him.
6:2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ- if this were done, and every believer was the object of care, then perhaps the overtaking in a fault would not be so frequent. The word for burden emphasises the idea of weight of care; it is a burden more than one person can carry, whereas the burden in verse 5 is what any one person is given strength to carry, in terms of responsibility. The Lord Jesus was the supreme Burden-Bearer. In life He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, Isaiah 53:4, and in death He bare our sins in His own body on the tree, 1 Peter 2:24. As Jehovah’s perfect servant He was fully qualified to bear the burdens of others. This is the law of Christ, perfectly displayed by Him when here. Paul by this answers any charge that the Christian, if he does not have the law of Moses to govern him, is lawless.
6:3 For if a man thinketh himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself- the law of Christ is truly carried out only by those who do not consider self, but only others. Christ looked not on His own things, but on the things of others, Philippians 2:4,5. He made Himself of no reputation, even though He was worthy of infinite repute. How much more should we, who in reality are nothing in ourselves! See 1 Corinthians 3:7. The priest and Levite in the good Samaritan story no doubt thought themselves to be something, and therefore above helping the robbed man.
6:4 But let every man prove his own work- instead of claiming to be something as far as carrying out the law of Christ is concerned, and instead, also, of being critical of the work of others, the individual servant should carry out a thorough self-assessment of his labour, testing its genuineness and value. And then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone- “in himself alone” is “as to himself alone”, that is in relation only to himself, for he personally has work that is worthy of God’s praise, and will not have to be content at the Judgement Seat with rejoicing that others have been rewarded. And not in another- “as to another”. It is not that a believer does not rejoice in what another does, but the point here is that each is responsible for the work given him to do, and instead of only being able to rejoice in what others have done, each should assess their labour so that they have personal cause for rejoicing because of what they have done.
6:5 For every man shall bear his own burden- as indicated on verse 2, this is the burden of responsibility that each believer has. That burden is to be borne in two senses. First, during the lifetime, full responsibility must be taken for the task allotted- the burden cannot be moved onto someone else. Second, at the Judgement Seat of Christ, the responsibility for what has been done shall be borne by the one doing it. “every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour”, 1 Corinthians 3:8.
6:6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate to him that teacheth in all good things- teachers and taught constitute the sum total of believers. So the teacher is to “bear his own burden” of teaching, and those taught have a burden of responsibility to share the necessary good things of life to them as a token of appreciation. “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn” is a verse from the Old Testament which the apostle used in 1 Corinthians 9:9-11 to encourage the duty of supporting those who teach the word. In certain circumstances the apostle did not use this means of support, but at other times he did, depending on the attitude of the local believers to him. We should remember, in connection with “all good things”, that according to 2 Corinthians 8:13 there should be an equality in this matter, so that the help given to those who teach should not be at such a level that they live in luxury, (“eased”), whilst others are “burdened” with the task of supporting them.
6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap- the subject of personal responsibility of the previous verses leads to a solemn warning. The God who created all things has enshrined the principle in His creation that what is sown is reaped. He will not allow those who try to evade this principle to succeed. Whatever is sown, whether the seed of good varieties of plant or the seed of evil, poisonous plants, will reproduce itself without fail.
6:8 For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption- if seeds of selfishness are sown, (for the text reads, “his own flesh” or self), meaning that the one sowing has not been putting into effect the teaching of the previous verses regarding concern for others, then a like harvest will be reaped. The selfish believer will find that what he has produced is nothing more than a mass of corruption, which will be rejected. But he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting- the one who sows with a view to producing that which the Spirit approves of, (the fruit of the Spirit of 5:22,23), will find an abundant harvest at the Judgement Seat, and the Spirit of God will ensure that he has an enhanced appreciation and enjoyment of everlasting life in eternity. Every believer has everlasting life, so does not have to work by sowing to get it, but the degree of appreciation of it will vary according to whether a person has laid hold on eternal life in a practical way, 1 Timothy 6:19.
6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing- the apostle is careful again to commend good works, lest the Judaisers should say that grace undermines them. The well doing in particular is that of sowing to the Spirit. For in due season we shall reap, if we faint not- not only is the principle in creation that what is sown is reaped, there is also the regulation of the seasons. Each believer has his or her allotted span on earth to sow to the Spirit. He who is the Lord of the harvest can be trusted to allow that time of opportunity, whether long or short. When the moment of His choosing comes, then the sowing is done no more, and the reaping at the “due season” of the Bema is awaited. To not be weary in well doing means to not flag in enthusiasm. It may well be that this will mean weariness, but the apostle is not rebuking that. If we faint not means if we do not give up. If we leave the seed in the barn, or only half-sow the field, no harvest, or a small harvest will result.
6:10 As we have therefore opportunity- the apostle is not saying that opportunities will be intermittent, and we should use them when they occur. Rather, he is saying that we have opportunity, for it is present all the time. “Ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good”, Mark 14:7. Significantly, the word “opportunity” means “a season”, and connects with the ideas of sowing and reaping of verses 7-9. Just as there is the “due season” of reaping, so there is a “due season” of sowing. Let us do good unto all men- the Lord Jesus went about doing good, and whilst we cannot work miracles as He did, nonetheless we have a responsibility to follow the principle. He did not discriminate between men when he blessed them, and nor should we. Especially unto them who are of the household of faith- the chief area of need is amongst the Lord’s people, since often their stand for the truth results in hardship. Note how the apostle is emphasising the need for good works on the part of those who have experienced the grace of God. The Judaisers would accuse the apostle of discounting good works, but he here show that is not so. He had signified his readiness to remember the poor in 2:10, and he had been instrumental in organising an Asia-wide collection for the poor saints of Judea, so none could justly charge him with indifference to the plight of the poor.
6:11-18 (b) The cross of Christ and its meaning.
6:11 Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand- most often, the apostle used an amanuensis, or secretary, to whom he would dictate his letters. Some Bibles give a note at the end of the epistles saying who is was thought had been the writer. No such note is attached to Galatians, but simply that it was written to the Galatians from Rome. If the apostle had eye problems, the fact that he had painstakingly written the letter himself was a token of his desire to do good, not only to the Galatian believers, but also to the wider world, as the truth found in the epistle was published abroad in the preaching of the gospel. How grateful we should be for this sturdy defence of the truth of the gospel, which has stood God’s people in good stead over the centuries.
6:12 As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised- the false teachers wished to keep up good appearances, and be marked by zeal for religion. One way they did this was by compelling the Galatians to be circumcised, and thus commit themselves to keeping the law. Not in the sense of physically inflicting the ceremony on them, but by forceful words, threatening them that if they were not circumcised, then they were not truly saved. See Acts 15:1, and compare Galatians 2:3, where the apostle refuses to be compelled. The apostle doubtless had the gift of discerning of spirits, and could tell the motive of these men, and proceeds to tell us what it is. Only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ- men are not prepared to willingly suffer and die for what they believe to be false, and these men believed that the preaching of the cross, with its assertion that the work of Christ was enough, and needed no works of man, was a false doctrine. The way they avoided being mistaken for being preachers of the gospel, and suffering as a consequence, was by denying the cross and championing the Law.
6:13 For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law- the falseness of these men is seen in the fact that the very law they wanted the Galatians to commit themselves to, was the law they did not keep. The Lord condemned the lawyers, who placed heavy burdens on the people, yet would not move a finger to help them, Luke 11:45,46. But desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh- circumcision is an operation on the flesh, and the Judaisers would rejoice if they managed to get some to have it done. But more than this, it would be a sign of carnality to go back to circumcision, and so if the Judaisers rejoiced at this, they showed that they had no spiritual life, and were only able to enjoy the things of the flesh.
6:14 But God forbid that I should glory- may it never be, writes the apostle, that I glory, or boast in this way. Paul desired to boast in spiritual things alone. Save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me- by which he means not a piece of wood, but the doctrine of the cross, the truth that the death of Christ has dealt with everything that merited the judgement of God. By dying on a cross for Paul, the Lord Jesus crucified or cut off the world from Paul. As the Lord said, anticipating the cross, “Now is the judgement of this world”, John 12:31, and by submitting to death at the hands of the men of the world, the Lord allowed them to show their true character, and thus be judged. This signified Divine disapproval of all that the world contained and stood for. Inasmuch as the princes of this world crucified the Lord of glory, 1 Corinthians 2:8, and amongst these princes were the chief priests in Israel, then the religion of the law is part of the world from which the cross of Christ has cut Paul off. And I unto the world- not only did Christ by His crucifixion cancel out the world as far as Paul was concerned, but He cancelled out Paul as far as the world was concerned. The Greek verb “to crucify”, also means “to build a palisade by driving in stakes”. So there may be a double thought- Christ has cancelled out the world by His crucifixion, but because the world still exists, and is a cause of trouble for the believer, He has, by His cross, erected a barrier between the believer and the world.
6:15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything- this gives the clue as to what aspect of the world the apostle has in mind in the previous verse; it is the world of religion, where to be circumcised had religious significance. By the cross, however, Christ has cancelled the world as far as those who believe are concerned, so that instead of being in it, they are in Christ Jesus, the Risen Man. So bound up together with Christ are their interests, that wherever He is, (and He is gone from the world), they are. The world that began when Adam sinned, has met its full judgement in the cross of Christ, and the believer is now identified with the Last Adam. Circumcision has no force or power (availeth) to effect this, but the cross of Christ has. Nor uncircumcision- whether a person is circumcised or not is of no account, now that a new situation prevails for the believer. So the uncircumcised Galatians would gain nothing by being circumcised, nor would they gain merit by being in a state of uncircumcision, and so have no religious links with the nation that crucified Christ. But a new creature (creation)- having cancelled out the world and its religion, Christ, as head of the new creation, introduces His people to a new state altogether, where ceremonial and ritual differences are irrelevant. What are relevant in the new creation sphere are the spiritual things established by Christ. It is in Christ, identified with Him, that a person is a new creature, 2 Corinthians 5:17.
6:16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them- those who live their lives in accordance with the principles set out in verses 14 and 15 may have misgivings, for the outward support of religion is gone. Because of this, the apostle brings down upon them the peace of God that will calm their fears. And mercy- refusal to give in to the forceful persuasions of the Judaisers may mean they are harassed by them. In such circumstances the Galatians need to appreciate and experience the mercy of God, who is kind to His people, and thus strengthens them to bear up when there is opposition. And upon the Israel of God- clearly, when the apostle spoke of those who “walk according to this rule”, he was anticipating that this, ideally, would be true of all believers. He now speaks of another company, the Israel of God. In Romans 9:6 we learn that “they are not all Israel which are of Israel”, which means that not everyone who is descended from Jacob, otherwise known as Israel, is really “Governed by God”, which is what the name Israel means. As he brings his epistle to a close, the apostle is anxious to dispel any idea that his remarks about circumcision, and his rebukes for the Judaisers, mean that he is against Israel. Far from being against them, he expresses the desire in Romans 10:1 that they be saved. But beyond this, there is his belief that after the present age has run its course, God will begin dealings with the nation of Israel again, and from it will extract those who learn the lesson the Galatians had to learn, that mere religion is of no account with God. It is upon this future company that he brings down the peace and mercy of God, for they will pass through times which are anything but peaceful, and experience from men treatment that is anything but merciful.
6:17 From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus- perhaps this is not so much a request for rest from opposition, as a statement that his desire is that in the future, when men oppose him, this will cause him no trouble of mind. The reason why he was beyond being concerned about persecution, was that already there were, in his body, the scars inflicted by those who violently opposed him, see 2 Corinthians 11:23-27. The marks are stigmata, or brandmarks. It was the practice to brand slaves with the name of their master, and to brand soldiers with the name of their commander. The wounds inflicted on Paul were the sure sign of his service for his Master, and his loyalty to his Commander. No circumcision scars could compare with this. The Judaisers used circumcision as a way of escaping persecution, verse 12, whereas Paul’s scars showed he had endured it, for Christ’s sake.
6:18 Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. The apostle ends with an affirmation of his fellowship with them in the family of God, despite the harsh words he has had to use at times in the epistle. He had begun the letter by associating his brethren with him as he wrote, 1:2, but hopefully, if they heed the teaching of the epistle, he now has the Galatians with him as brethren. He has had things to say about circumcision, the cutting of the flesh. He closes with an emphasis on the spirit, the inner core of being in which the believer serves and worships God, even if his body is not circumcised.