Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
In this final chapter of the epistle, Paul reached the glorious climax of the whole letter dealing with the contrast between the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ, with so FULFILL THE LAW OF CHRIST standing as the essence of the total admonition. Without the understanding of this final chapter, much that Paul has written earlier might have appeared incomplete and inconclusive. This writer's interpretation of this chapter is at variance with the traditional views concerning it which dominate so much of the current literature on Galatians, but it is presented in the conviction that the sheer logic of the view here advocated will commend itself to the discerning student.
Brethren, even if a man be overtaken in a trespass, ye who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of meekness; looking to thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)
Overtaken in a trespass ... The situation here envisioned is not that of some Christian overtaking trespass, but that of the trespass overtaking him! Sin committed impetuously through the sudden and unexpected onset of temptation, actual sin, not a mere "fault," is to be understood here. The term "trespass" does not entail any "absolution of responsibility"; "Of the guilt, there is no palliation indicated by the word fault or trespass." Despite this certainty regarding the New Testament usage of this word, people still cling to the phantom supposition that there is less blame in it than accrues to "sin." As Childers said, regarding the Lukan form of the Lord's prayer, where "sin" is used for "trespass," "We who believe that Christians do not commit sins and remain Christians sometimes avoid this form of the prayer." A comparison of the two New Testament accounts of the Lord's prayer, however, shows that Christ used "sin" and "trespass" interchangeably. Thus the simple meaning here is, "If a Christian brother unexpectedly commits some sin, etc."
Ye who are spiritual ... is not restricted to ministers, elders, or other special workers in the church but is applicable to all who love the body of the Lord and are zealous for building it up. Obviously, those persons in whom the spiritual life is not dominant would be useless in the endeavor proposed, hence the admonition that "ye who are spiritual" should do it.
Restore such a one in a spirit of meekness ... Amazingly, the commentators have almost invariably described this verse as "a command to love thy neighbor as thyself'; and of course the Christian love of the brethren is an implied necessity, but it is not here mentioned. This is a flat, unequivocal commandment to go out and restore the sinful, the same being one part, and only one part of the Law of Christ, mentioned a moment later in connection with another part of that same Law of Christ.
Looking to thyself, lest thou also be tempted ... The thought here echoes that of Galatians 5:26, showing the coherence and unity of Paul's continuing message. The deceitful and seductive nature of sin being what it is, the child of the Lord should tread fearfully in the presence of any who have broken the sacred Law, being constantly aware that the same lure of the forbidden which has already trapped a brother might also entangle himself in disobedience.
 Herman N. Ridderbos, The Epistle of Paul to the Churches of Galatia (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1953), p. 212.
 E. Huxtable, The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), Vol. 20, p. 294.
 Charles L. Childers, Beacon Bible Commentary (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1964), Vol. Romans, p. 508.
Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ.
It will be observed that "Law" has been capitalized here, the great pity being that it was not done in the common versions. There is no excuse whatever for writing this word with a capital "L" where the Law of Moses is concerned, as throughout this epistle, and then writing it with a little `T' where the superior and glorious Law of Christ is involved. Of course, there is a rebellious and sinful design in such an unjustifiable discrimination, that being the unbelievable theological proposition that there is no "Law of Christ"! We are under grace! This verse deals the coup de grace to any such fallacy. See summary of THE LAW OF CHRIST at the end of this chapter. In the verse before us, two essential elements of that Law have already been mentioned in this chapter, and others will be enumerated in a moment. No. 1 is: "Restore the Backsliders" (Galatians 6:1). No. 2 is "Bear Ye One Another's Burdens" (Galatians 6:2).
Of course, in Galatians 6:5, Paul said, "Each man shall bear his own burden"; but it is still surprising that even a Christian scholar should read this as a "contradiction," even Ridderbos saying, "It is not necessary to eliminate contradiction." The Greek words from which the translation comes are diverse; one is [@baros], denotes a weight, and is applicable to a spiritual burden; whereas the other is [@fortion], which means "load," being used in Acts 27:20 of the cargo of a ship, thus something that relates to the purpose of being. Thus, in Galatians 6:2, Paul speaks of Christians bearing each other's sorrows, due to sins or misfortunes; and in Galatians 6:5, he speaks of every man bearing his own responsibility, fulfilling the purpose of his own responsibility, filling the purpose of his own life. See article, "What to Do with Burdens," under Galatians 6:5.
So fulfill the Law of Christ ... It is almost unbelievable that Christian scholarship has so nearly unanimously ignored or misinterpreted LAW OF CHRIST. That Paul meant the Christian duty of helping fellow Christians to be understood as the totality of the Law of Christ is a preposterous error. Of course, such a view is so patently wrong and unreasonable that the rule on burden-sharing is interpreted in a wider frame of reference to mean "Love thy neighbor as thyself'; and that misinterpretation is hailed and saluted as the law of Christ (little "l")! Note what is alleged:
The meaning is that by showing sympathy to others ... the Christian will best fulfill that "new commandment" ... "the law of love" (John 13:34,1 John 3:23).
For if a man thinketh himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
This appears to be addressed to any of the "spiritual" in Galatians 6:1 who might consider themselves above "sinners" and thus under no obligation to restore them.
But let each man prove his own work, and then shall he have his glorying in regard of himself alone, and not of his neighbor. For each man shall bear his own burden.
Work ... here means "practical behavior contrasted with profession." Such a work is here set forth as the basis of one's "glorying," a Pauline expression meaning "rejoicing in the hope of salvation." This is a companion statement to "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). Standing, as it does, here at the end of Galatians it is the effective and irrefutable denial of the slander that would make Paul's rejection of the "works" of the Law of Moses as having any connection with salvation, to be in any sense inclusive of the "work of faith" which is required of every Christian (1 Thessalonians 1:3). Hendriksen revealed a shade of meaning accurately in his rendition thus: "Let each one test his own work; then his reason to boast will be in himself alone, and not in (comparing himself) with someone else."
WHAT TO DO WITH BURDENS
Every man, rich or poor, old or young, wise or foolish, weak or strong, has some burden to bear. One's neighbors may not always see it, for some burdens are hidden; and there must be many like the ancient Jewish king who wore sackcloth beneath his royal robes. Some smiling faces mask a burdened heart.
The word of God reveals that burdens may be handled in three ways. Some may be shared with others; other burdens must be borne by every man himself (see under Galatians 6:1); and of a third class, the Scriptures command, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord" (Psalms 55:22, English Revised Version margin (1885)).
A. Burdens that may be shared with others. There is many a load of life that grows infinitely lighter under the touch of a friendly hand or the sound of an encouraging word. When the storms of life's deepest emotions have been unloosed by overwhelming experiences, it is the glory of Christians to "rejoice with those that do rejoice, and to weep with those who weep." Love and toleration for the weak, and loving compassion for the needy, as well as love and appreciation for every soul's unique and eternal value "in Christ" can ease the burdens of the weary and bless the giver and the receiver alike.
B. The burdens one must bear himself. No one may share another's responsibility. "Every man shall bear his own burden." "Every one of us must give an account of himself to God" (2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:12). Every man must bear the burden of ordering his life after "the sayings of Jesus Christ" (Matthew 7:24-27), upon pain of being either a wise or a foolish builder; and no commentator or preacher ever had the right to bear that burden for him. See Law of Christ at end of chapter.
C. The burdens that are too heavy to be borne. Of a third class of burdens, it is said, "Cast thy burdens upon the Lord." Our sins are such a burden. Our sins we cannot ignore, deny or make restitution for them; only "in Christ" may they be forgiven. Our anxieties are too frustrating and depressing to be borne by mortals. All of them should be cast upon the Lord (Philippians 4:6). Great natural calamities, wars, pestilence, revolutions and countless other things are burdens no mortal can bear. Cast them upon the Lord.
 E. Huxtable, op. cit., p. 296.
 William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary on Galatians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1968), p. 234.
But let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.
Huxtable noted that this exhortation to "liberality toward our teachers is perfectly germane to the preceding topics of sharing one another's loads, and so carrying our own pack." However, it is germane in another very important relationship. Paul here was enumerating a number of things included in the Law of Christ, not a total summary, of course, but a list of particulars in which he felt the Galatians might need special exhortation. This is No. 3 of a group of things Paul stressed. It means financially support your teachers. Conybeare made the meaning clearer by capitalizing Word, showing that not all teachers are indicated but that teachers of the Word of God are meant.
Howard observed that the word here rendered "communicate" is [@koinoneo], meaning to share, or participate, even as a partner. Failure to understand this reference to the Christian duty of giving support of the gospel as pertaining to the Law of Christ led to the somewhat humorous exclamation of Ridderbos that "It is difficult to find the right connection between verse 6 and what precedes ..." Of course, it connects with that Law of Christ which none of the commentators can see!
 E. Huxtable, op. cit., p. 297.
 Conybeare and Howson, The Life and Epistles of St Paul (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1966), p. 492.
 R. E. Howard, Beacon Bible Commentary, Galatians (Kansas City, Missouri: Beacon Hill Press, 1965), Vol. IX, p. 116.
 H. N. Ridderbos, op. cit., p. 216.
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth unto his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption,' but he that soweth unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal life.
Soweth unto his flesh ... is a reference to living after the lusts of the flesh as Paul had just outlined in Galatians 5:18-21; and sowing to the Spirit is the equivalent of living the kind of life that exhibits the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24).
SOWING AND REAPING
A. The principle of sowing and reaping is handed down from the throne of God himself. None can deny it; no skeptic can scoff at it; it was true in the garden of Eden that Adam reaped what he sowed, and it has been true ever since. It is true of every individual, of every saint and sinner, or every hypocrite who thinks he is a saint; it is true of every race, society and nation. It was true of Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, France and Germany, and it will be true of the United States of America.
It is true in both physical and spiritual creations. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament teach it. "Whoever perished being innocent?" (Job 4:8); "they have sown the wind and shall reap the whirlwind" (Hosea 8:7); "he who sows injustice will reap calamity" (Proverbs 22:8, RSV).
In the New Testament, Paul used this principle to teach Christian giving (2 Corinthians 8-9). "No planting, no harvest" is the law of life. The mandate to the church is "preach the gospel." It is the executive order of God for every individual. There are no small and big opportunities; all opportunities are BIG with eternal potential.
B. Extensions of this principle. The reaping is always more than the sowing. It is inevitably in kind. No man ever sowed to the flesh and reaped eternal life, or the other way around. It is inevitable. There is no art or device of man that can countermand, avoid, or checkmate this eternal law of God. The sons of Jacob sold their brother; and all of them became slaves in the same land. America sowed the wind (of slavery) and reaped the whirlwind of war. Germany sowed the wind when they listened to the Pied Piper of Munich and reaped the devastation of World War II. Wherever men or nations today obey their own foolish philosophies instead of the word of God they are sowing to the wind; and already the whirlwind gathers dark and threatening upon the horizons of all the troubled earth. It might be almost time to reap the whirlwind.
C. There is a good side to this also. Sowing to the Spirit promises certain, inevitable, increased reward in kind. They who have loved and sought the fellowship of Christ in God shall at last enter the eternal fellowship above, where all the problems of earth are solved in the light and bliss of heaven.
And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
Be not weary in well doing ... This is No. 4, being an undeniable component of the Law of Christ who went about doing good (Matthew 21:15). How could any man imitate Paul as he imitated Christ without doing good? This touches the principal practical business of Christians on earth. It is amazing how little regard some seem to have for it.
In due season we shall reap if we faint not ... For discussion of fainting, see my Commentary on Hebrews. Hebrews 12:3. Many things can cause Christians to faint, among them being the evil doctrines which undermine and destroy their faith.
So then, as we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith.
The badge of Christian behavior is that of positive good toward all on earth. "Work that which is good ..." Strange that Paul should have mentioned this, especially if he had been advocating for five chapters that "works" do not have anything to do with salvation! Of course, the meaning in those previous chapters refers to the works of the Law of Moses and not to that class of works which Christians must do. Yes, the word is must! Christ equated salvation with this very principle Paul had in view here, there being the same distinction between "everybody" and "the household of faith" in the great passage from Matthew 25:31-46. Although the Christian must do good and not do evil to all people, there is a special and prior obligation to Christian brothers, as elaborated by Jesus in the passage cited. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these MY BRETHREN ..." was the test of receiving or losing eternal life. The savage humanism of the current era which would tie the full resources of the church of God to every social scheme that comes along cannot be justified by a proper respect to what Jesus said there and what Paul said here.
See with how large letters I write unto you with mine own hand.
Scholars advocate opposing views on what is meant by this; for certainly, it may be translated otherwise than in English Revised Version (1885). MacKnight rendered it thus:
The phrase is rightly translated how large a letter. The first word properly signifies of what size; and the second denotes an epistle, as well as the letters of the alphabet."
As in all cases where two translations are possible, the context and other overall consideration must be resorted to. Of pertinence here, it seems, is the opinion of Ramsay, who said, "Those who suppose that a trifling detail, such as the size or shape of Paul's handwriting, could find room in his mind as he wrote this letter are mistaking his character.
I write ... is also better rendered as "have written," thus having, as Dummelow thought, "a reference to the foregoing letter of Galatians."
Scholarly objections to this on the basis that after all, Galatians is not as large as Romans, are not valid, as Romans had not been written, nor, for that matter, any of the other Pauline letters. We have followed the opinion of Hendriksen who wrote: "If, of all Paul's letters that have been preserved, Galatians was the very first one that he wrote, as we have assumed, he could perhaps have written, `See what a big letter I wrote you'
Most current scholars go the other way, however, taking an alternate rendition and interpreting it to mean Paul's eyesight was bad, or his handwriting was characteristically large, thus forming a kind of signature, or even that he was somewhat illiterate! It seems to this student that such guesses have little in their favor.
 James Macknight, op. cit., p. 206.
 Wm. M. Ramsay, A Historical Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1965), p. 466.
 J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 957.
 William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 241.
As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they compel you to be circumcised; only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.
This verse is valuable as showing that this whole chapter still deals with the Moses vs. Christ theme; and that it is not "looking quite away from the Judaic controversy," as alleged by Ramsay and many others. No, Paul is still on the same subject; and that Judaism vs. Christianity is still his primary concern surfaces again in Galatians 6:15.
Only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ ... This is Paul's charge that the Judaizers were insincere hypocrites who cared nothing at all for the Law of Moses (see next verse), but that they were merely striving to accommodate to Jewish opinion for the sake of self-promotion. This was a devastating charge. Even the errors of sincere men may be tolerated and understood, but the pretensions of self-seeking hypocrites can receive nothing except utter contempt.
 William M. Ramsay, op. cit., p. 454.
For not even they who receive circumcision do themselves keep the law; but they desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.
Something of the strategy of the Jerusalem hierarchy is detected in these two verses. They evidently had persuaded certain Christians who had become Judaizers to procure, by any practical means, the circumcision of as many of the Gentile converts as possible, leaving out of sight the ultimate amalgamation of all of them as proselytes to Judaism, which they doubtless envisioned as coming at a later phase of the effort. This accounts for the fact that the Judaizers neither kept the Law themselves nor sought to bind any of its more objectionable features upon their followers. The hypocrisy of such a device Paul exposed in this verse.
Thus, as Huxtable discerned, those Judaizers were courting favor with the Jewish hierarchy. He said: "Paul meant, It is from no zeal for the Law that they do what they do, for they are at no pains to keep the Law; but only with the object of currying favor with the Jews."
 E. Huxtable, op. cit., p. 308.
But far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
Glory, save in the cross ... The cross of the Son of God, by the love for men exhibited upon it by the Saviour, by the atonement for sins provided upon its crude beams, by all the hope of the gospel which it symbolizes, is indeed the only grounds of rejoicing and glorying on the part of Christians.
Through which ... This should not be "through whom"; for Christ does not crucify Christians, nor the world; it is the cross which does so.
The world hath been crucified unto me ... The cross has crucified the world to Christians in the sense that the hope of the gospel achieved and symbolized thereupon has made the world to be, in the eyes of Christians, crucified by the cross of Christ.
And I unto the world ... MacKnight has this comment:
The cross of Christ crucifies Christians to the world, by inspiring them with such principles and leading them to a course of life which renders them in the eyes of the world as contemptible, and as unfit for their purposes as if they were crucified and dead."
 James MacKnight, op. cit., p. 210.
For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
For full discussion of this thought, see under Galatians 5:6. The significance of its recurrence here is that of focusing upon Paul's main theme continuing right through this chapter and to the very end of it, namely, that of the Law of Moses vs. the Law of Christ, forcing the conclusion that "Law of Christ" in Galatians 6:2, is not a mere afterthought with regard to the general rule of "love thy neighbor," but an emphasis upon that glorious entity, the Law of Jesus Christ, which is antithetical to the Law of Moses, abrogating and replacing it altogether.
And as many as shall walk by this rule, peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
As many as shall walk by this rule ... that is, the Law of Christ, not regarding merely the portions of it stressed in this final chapter, but all of it.
Peace ... and mercy ... The apostolic blessing is invoked upon those who will walk under the Law of Christ, as distinguished from them that desire to cling to the Law of Moses.
And upon the Israel of God ... It is surprising that any could misunderstand this, as if Paul were, in any manner, invoking a blessing upon racial Jews. "Israel of God," in the true sense, with Paul, was never racial Israel, but the spiritual Israel. See Romans 2:28,29; Romans 4:13-16 and Romans 9:6-8. This meaning of "spiritual Israel," of course, included all of every race, including Jews, who accepted Christ. "Israel of God," according to Wesley, means "the church of God, which consists of all those, and only those, of every nation and kindred, who walk by this rule."
This benediction is not addressed to two distinct sets of persons (those who walk by this rule, and upon the Israel of God) but upon the same set of persons addressed in two ways, as if he had said, "Yea, upon the Israel of God.
 John Wesley, op. cit., in loco.
 William Sanday, op. cit., p. 463.
Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear branded on my body the marks of Jesus.
This is doubtless a reference to the scars of such suffering as Paul's stoning at Lystra, among these very Galatians, on the first tour; and he considered such "marks" as positive and undeniable evidence of the genuineness of his apostleship. Any interpretation of this passage as a statement that nail-prints had appeared in Paul's hand and feet in some supernatural manifestations of the Stigmata belongs to the Dark Ages. Nothing like that is in the passage.
There might be, however, some comparison intended with certain practices among the heathen. "The mark of the pagan god Dionysus was that of an ivy leaf burned into the flesh with a branding iron," and such a practice widely known to the Galatians might have suggested Paul's using the term "branded" here; but beyond that, there could have been no connection. As Ramsay eloquently declared, "The marks that branded Paul as a slave of Jesus were the deep cuts of the lictor's rods of Pisidian Antioch and the stones of Lystra!"
 E. Huxtable, op. cit., p. 314.
 William M. Ramsay, op. cit., p. 472.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.
Paul gave no commendation at the beginning of Galatians, and the tone of the whole letter is one of hurt surprise, sorrow and indignation; but in this final word "brethren," one finds the loving heart of Paul yearning for his beloved converts in Galatia. It is a final word of love and hope for all of them. He had not given them up; they were still brethren. History gives no clue to the manner of their receiving this letter, nor to the continued success or failure of the Galatians; but as McGarvey said:
We have no word of history which reveals to us the immediate effect of Paul's epistle; but the fact that it was preserved argues well that it was favorably received. Due to its vigor and power, it could not have been otherwise than effective.
This epistle, along with the Corinthians and Romans, staggered Judaism and restrained it until, smitten by the hand of the Almighty at the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, it ceased to trouble the church any more until the times of the apostasy, when its forms and systems were revived, and in modern times when sabbatarians still attempt to bind such things as the sabbath day.
THE LAW OF CHRIST
1. He that heareth and doeth Christ's "sayings" shall be saved; he that does not do so shall be lost (Matthew 7:24-29).
2. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that disbelieves shall be condemned" (Mark 16:15,16).
3. "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:5).
4. Regarding the Lord's supper: "This do ye until I come" (1 Corinthians 11:24ff). "Except ye eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man ye have no life in you" (John 6:54ff).
5. Observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matthew 18:18-20).
6. Whosoever shall break one of the least of these commandments and teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:19).
7. "Abide in me ... apart from me ye can do nothing." "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and cast them into the fire" (John 15:4-6).
8. "Be ye therefore perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). The manner of keeping this is discussed under Colossians 1:28, which see.
9. What is done to the church, the spiritual body of Christ, is also done to Christ (Acts 9:4ff).
10. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10). Etc.
This is no more than a few suggestions; but they do not represent human opinion at all, but what Christ said. Let every man ponder this Law. The notion that the apostle Paul set aside all of the words of Christ and substituted a "faith only" way of attaining salvation fails to take account of the fact that Christ is the head of his church, not Paul. Apostle though he was, he was a mortal, the eloquent and holy apostle and most distinguished preacher of all times; but he was the bond-slave of Jesus Christ who gave people the teachings of the New Testament. Those who believe that Paul would have said or done anything to pervert or change the teaching of Christ understand neither Paul nor Christ.
A popular superstition is that "The Law of Christ is a positive law, not a negative law." In the sense of stressing many positive values, of course, it is; but the Law of Christ has many negatives also. Notice just a few of them from the Sermon on the Mount:
Swear not at all (Matthew 5:34).
Visit Our Sponsors
Find Us on Facebook
Search This Commentary
1 Peter: Two Horizons New Testament Commentary [THNTC]
Leviticus: A Mentor Commentary
Nahum: Anchor Yale Bible Commentary [AYBC]
Amos & Lamentations: God's People in Crisis (International Theological Commentary)
NBBC, 1 & 2 Samuel: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition