Galatians Chapter 6
Dr. John Boyd, Holywood, N. Ireland
BURDEN BEARING (Verses 1-5)
Verse 1. Paul considers the case of one who might have done some of the things he has been condemning, and shows how he should be dealt with. If the slip has overcome him before he could recover himself, those who claim to be led by the Spirit should set him right again. The word used for " restore " here is the one employed when a fractured limb is set, and restored to normality. This must be done gently, and in meekness. The spiritual ones must look to themselves carefully, for any one of them could at that, or at some future, time be drawn into the same sin.
Verse 2. They should take up and help to ease that which is pressing heavily on their brother. Paul is possibly referring to the spiritual burden of v. 1. This would obey fully the law of love given by Christ (5. 14 ; John 13. 34). This is in reply to those who want to keep a law. Here is one to keep.
Verse 3. Paul now explains " looking to thyself," v. 1. If a man thinks himself to be something when he really is nothing, he is leading his thoughts astray, an example of vainglory, 5. 26. He thinks so much of himself that he will not stoop to help his brother (John 13. 12-15).
Verse 4. Instead of holding a high opinion of oneself each should examine his own work to see if it is acceptable to God. " Prove " is the technical term for testing coins to see if fit for circulation. Thus should he examine the whole habit of his life. Then, at the Judgment-Seat of Christ, he will have something to glory in, but only in regard to what concerns himself. There his judgment will be individual, and not in relation to his neighbour, with whom he has been comparing himself.
Verse 5. Then everyone will bear what he carries himself, his own account, his own obligation. " Burden" in v. 2 suggests something heavy with which to be assisted ; here something each must carry for himself, something personal.
LIBERALITY (Verses 6-10)
Verse 6. Paul has a message for him who has been instructed (lit. catechized, i.e. taught by question and answer) in the word of the gospel. He should have fellowship with his teacher in things that are good, in that they meet his temporal necessities.
Verse 7. They must not wander from the straight path of their obligation to do good, as set out in vv. 1, 2, 6, by quietening their consciences in the matter. God is not mocked, lit. is not one at whom they could turn up the nose. A believer who would not do so with words may do it by witholding from God and from His children their due. For what sympathy, kindness, love, etc., a man sows, this, and nothing else, will he reap. What applies in the natural will also apply in the spiritual. The harvest results from the sowing.
Verse 8. Paul applies the general rule of v. 7. What is sown for the gratification of the flesh, for material ends, will share the same fate us the flesh, corruption. Like the flesh it will perish. But he who sows in the interest of the Holy Spirit shall with Him reap the benefits throughout an eternal life.
Verse 9. Instead of sowing to the flesh, the believer must not be slack in doing what is good, what was enjoined in vv. I, 2, 6. For he shall reap at the proper time, the appointed harvest-time at the end of the age. This is contingent on his not relaxing his efforts.
Verse 10. On account of this certainty of reaping ho should take every opportunity he can find for sowing in this life, the sowing season. Let him show good works to all men, 5. 14, and especially towards those who have believed in Christ. Fellow-believers have an especial claim on his sympathetic help, for they suffer much from the world.
THE AIM OF THE JUDAIZERS (Verses 11-17)
Verse 11. Paul places himself with the Galatians as they read his letter, and draws attention to the large letters with which he wrote. He may be referring either to the whole of his letter or to this postscript, Why he used large letters is not known. Possibly it was because of poor eyesight, 4. 15.
Verse 12. Those who make it a necessity for you to be circumcised do so to put on a good face in fleshly, material things—rites and ceremonies. By suggesting that they had made proselytes to Judaism they appease the Jews and thus escape the persecution that came to those who preach the cross.
Verse 13. This is their real motive, for the circumcision party does not keep diligent watch over all the details of the law. Circumcision is the only part they bother about; the more important parts they forget, 5. 14. They want you to be circumcised, so as to boast in some outward change, bringing you over to their party, 4. 17.
Verse 14. But far be such motives from Paul. He will only boast in the cross. It is despised by men. but he rejoiced in it, for there the Lord Jesus Christ died. He uses the Lord's full title, to impress Oh them the dignity of the Lord, who there suffered for him. For him the world has been put into the place of death. The " world " here denotes that sphere of things in which the flesh lives and delights— wealth, power, pleasure, indulgence. It is opposed to God (Jas. 4. 4). Paul, as identified with the crucifixion of Christ, 2. 20, sees himself put to death as far as the world is concerned. The contemplation of (he cross has spoiled the world for him ; he found no pleasure in it. The preaching of the cross has spoiled him for the world ; it no longer wanted him when he preached the cross.
Verse 15. He did not care for the world's applause, for neither circumcision nor uncircumcision are of value in themselves. They pertain to the old creation. What is of value is a new, a different creation from the old, the work of the Holy Spirit. An inward change is what matters, not altering the old by external changes. And this the cross alone can do.
Verse 16. May peace and mercy be the portion of all who keep step with this rule. The rule is lit. a canon, a measuring rod, used metaphorically here for the guiding principle of life. It is the principle laid down in vv. 14, 15. Peace is experienced when all is going well, 5. 22 ; mercy is I he outcome of pity in action. These blessings Paul prayed for the true Israel of God, those who have received the inward change, v. 15, not those who attend to external rites only.
Verse 17. As to the future, let no one bring him (double by doubling his apostolic authority, or seeking to undermine his teaching. For, said he, " I (emphatic, in contrast to the Judaizers) carry in my body the stigmata, or brands, of a bondservant of Jesus." Stigmata were used to designate slaves. Paul's brands were the scars he had received through suffering for the gospel. Some think that Paul is here comparing these scars with the Judaizers' circumcision, or that he is comparing his sufferings to the Lord's while on earth.
BENEDICTION (Verse 18)
Verse 18. Paul finishes with his usual benediction, the mark of a genuine Pauline letter (2 Thess. 3. 17). His wish was that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that which would cause them plea sure, would be granted to their spirit, that is. in their spiritual life. Despite his hardness in the letter Paul finishes off affectionately, to show his real love for them.