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Friday, September 22nd, 2023
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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Bible Commentaries
Galatians 6

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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Verse 1

Galatians 6:1 . Ἀδελφοὶ . The last verse protested against unbrotherly tempers; this appeal presents, by way of contrast, the claims of brotherly love even in the case of real wrongdoing. καὶ προλημφθῇ . The English version overtaken suggests the idea of sudden temptation, and so tends to palliate the guilt of the offender, but the Greek denotes rather his surprise in the very act, and so lays stress on the reality of his guilt. The passage is urging the tender treatment of actual offenders, and the preceding καί enforces the claims even of guilty brethren on Christian charity: “Brethren, if a man be actually detected … deal tenderly with him in a spirit of meekness.” καταρτίζετε . This verb denotes sometimes the original framing of a mechanism ( e.g. , of the human body and of the universe in Hebrews 10:5 ; Hebrews 11:3 ), but more often its readjustment ( e.g. , the setting of a broken limb, or the mending of nets in Matthew 4:21 ). Here it indicates the correction of an offender with a view to his restoration; and the need of meekness and forbearance for the due execution of this delicate task is enforced.

The transition from the plural καταπτίζετε to the singular σκοπῶν is instructive. The treatment of offenders belonged to the Church collectively, but each member needed to examine himself individually, in order that he might fulfil his part with due humility and sympathy.

Verses 1-6


Verse 2

Galatians 6:2 . βαστάζετε . From its original sense of taking up, this verb acquires the most various meanings, e.g., carrying in Matthew 20:12 , ministration in Matthew 3:11 , robbery in John 12:6 . Here it signifies lending a hand to help by lifting heavy loads. This does not involve transference of the burden, for it is said in 2 Corinthians 8:13 , I mean not that other men be eased and ye burdened : and in Galatians 6:5 it is added that each will have his own pack to bear; but Christian love must ever be careful to relieve each in turn when overtaxed by crushing loads.

Verses 3-5

Galatians 6:3-5 . Any conceit of our own strength or goodness is a vain delusion, for we are nothing. Let no man compare his own with others’ work: this will only feed his vanity; but let each scrutinise his own work. Then, if he find there ground for rejoicing, it will be in the ability that has been given by God’s grace to such a one as he is: for each will have his own burden to bear of conscious guilt and shame.

Verse 4

Galatians 6:4 . τὸν ἕτερον . This phrase denotes originally the other of two persons, but in this connexion another than self , the world being classified under two heads self and not self , so that any other man with whom we are brought into contact belongs to the second division.

Verse 5

Galatians 6:5 . φορτίον . This word was applied to the pack usually carried by a porter or a soldier on the march. In Matthew 11:30 Christ employs this figure to describe the burden which he lays on each of his disciples ( τὸ φορτίον μου ), and here it denotes the regular daily burden laid on Christians. It is necessary to distinguish this from the heavy loads ( βάρη ) to which Galatians 6:2 refers as needing the help of Christian brethren for the relief of overtaxed carriers.

Verse 6

Galatians 6:6 . Let him that is taught share with him that teacheth . The word κοινωνεῖν contains the key to the true meaning of this verse. Our versions understand it here, and in Romans 12:13 , Philippians 4:15 , in the sense of communicating to others; but I can find no warrant for this in Greek usage. In Romans 15:27 it signifies distinctly to receive a share, and elsewhere to become a partner ( κοινωνὸς γενέσθαι ) and share in common with others ( 1Ti 5:22 , 1 Peter 4:13 , 2 John 1:11 , Hebrews 2:14 ). Here in like manner it enjoins upon the leaders of the Churches the duty of admitting all the members to participation in any spiritual blessings they enjoy. It continues, in fact, the protest against the arrogant pretensions and selfish exclusiveness of Judaising leaders. ἀγαθοῖς . It is impossible to restrict this word to mere worldly goods, except where the language of the context suggests or warrants such a restriction, as is the case in Luke 12:18 ; Luke 16:25 . The language here points to the blessings of Christian faith and doctrine. κατηχούμενος . Oral teaching is specified because it was the only form of instruction then existing in the Churches.

Verse 7

Galatians 6:7 . μυκτηρίζεται . From its original sense of sneer this verb was applied in rhetorical language to the betrayal of covert ill-will and contempt by cynical gestures in spite of fair words. There can be no double-dealing with God, for He knows all the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Verses 7-10


Verse 8

Galatians 6:8 . Every action produces an effect on the character of the actor corresponding as exactly to its motive as the fruit to the seed. If it springs from selfish desire, it stimulates the growth of evil lusts, and issues in a harvest of inward corruption. If, on the contrary, it be done in obedience to the spirit, it quickens spiritual growth, and issues eventually in a harvest of eternal life. The heart of man resembles a field in which he sows, by the mere exercise of his will, a future harvest of good or evil.

Verse 9

Galatians 6:9 . The warnings μὴ ἐγκακῶμεν and μὴ ἐκλυόμενοι carry on figures borrowed from harvest work: the former depicts husbandmen tempted to slacken their exertions by weariness of prolonged labour, the latter reapers overcome by heat and toil.

Verse 10

Galatians 6:10 . καιρὸν . The last verse affirmed that there is a due season for the spiritual harvest as well as the earthly; the same analogy suggests the existence of a spiritual seedtime also, which we are bound to utilise. τὸ ἀγαθὸν . This word varies widely in meaning, like good in English; it is applied both to the intrinsic goodness of God Himself (Matthew 19:17 ), and to the mere manifestation of a kindly temper towards others. So also its compounds ἀγαθοποιεῖν , ἀγαθουργεῖν . The clause πρὸς πάντας attaches to it here the latter force: so that the goodness spoken of is goodness to others. τ . οἰκείους . Christians are here designated as the household of the faith , and in Ephesians 2:19 as the household of God .

Verse 11

Galatians 6:11 . The Greek text admits but one meaning. The use of the instrumental dative precludes the rendering, See how large a letter I write , which would require πηλίκα γράμματα : so that the verse obviously calls attention to the large letters employed by the writer from this point onwards. The statement in 2 Thessalonians 3:17 , that he regularly dictated the body of his Epistles ( cf. also Romans 16:22 ), merely attaching his signature by way of attestation, explains this appeal. The size of the letters attested the difficulty which he found in writing with his imperfect sight, and the effort he was now making on their behalf proved his anxiety for the welfare of his Galatian disciples. They were evidently well aware of his infirmity, and needed no explanation of this pathetic allusion to his blindness. It may, therefore, be reasonably read in connexion with Galatians 4:15 . Probably the prolonged attack of ophthalmia which had threatened the destruction of his sight had seriously impaired it, and they who had watched his sufferings with such tender sympathy would now be quick to feel for the privation which the attack had entailed upon him. ἔγραψα : I write . The epistolary aorist is constantly used to denote personal acts of the writer at the time (2 Corinthians 9:3 , Ephesians 6:22 , Colossians 4:8 , Philemon 1:19 ; Philemon 1:21 ).

Verses 11-18


Verses 12-13

Galatians 6:12-13 . Paul impugns the sincerity of the agitators: their affected zeal for the Law was a pretext with a view to disarming Jewish enmity: they urged the circumcision of Gentiles also to gratify their own vanity. They had probably, like the Jewish Christians at Antioch ( cf. Galatians 2:13 ), been guilty of inconsistency in their practice: but Paul apparently relies also on his argument in Galatians 2:16 that Jewish converts had by the mere act of embracing Christ confessed their own inability to keep the Law, and could not therefore be sincere in preaching to others obedience to its rules. τῷ σταυρῷ . This dative cannot surely mean for ( i.e., by reason of ) the cross . If this had been the meaning, it would have been expressed by διὰ τὸν σταυρόν . The correct translation seems to be, persecuted with the cross, i.e. , the cross of outward suffering which was in those days the lot of so many converted Jews, and notably of Paul himself. The Cross of Christ is here identified with persecution as it is in Philippians 3:18 with self-denial.

Verse 13

Galatians 6:13 . περιτεμνόμενοι . The present participle is more appropriate than the perfect περιτετμημένοι , which is read by some MSS.: for the author has in mind the adoption of a system, as in Galatians 5:3 .

Verse 14

Galatians 6:14 . Paul contrasts his own spirit with that which his rivals are manifesting. They are animated by selfish desires to glory over the flesh of others, he will glory only in the triumph of the cross over his own flesh, whereby the power of the world over him, and his carnal love of the world, are both done away.

Verse 15

Galatians 6:15 . Circumcision is again declared, as in Galatians 5:6 , to be a mere accident of outward circumstance and of no spiritual import: faith working in love was there pronounced essential for Christian life, and here a new creation , the birth of the spirit in the heart of man.

Verse 16

Galatians 6:16 . κανόνι . Men need a rule to guide their lives as the surveyor or the carpenter for the right adjustment of his work. This rule was supplied to the Jew by the Law in a code of morals, but the Spirit quickens in Christians a new life whereby the conscience is enlightened to discern good and evil for the regulation of their lives. καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰσραὴλ : yea upon the Israel of God . καί is not properly copulative here, but intensive. Those who walk by the rule of the Spirit are declared to be indeed the true Israel of God, not the Jews who have the name of Israel, but are really only children of Abraham after the flesh.

Verse 17

Galatians 6:17 . τοῦ λοιποῦ … In deprecating any renewal of the present agitation Paul treats with contempt the prospect of serious danger from it. It had disturbed his peace and the peace of the Church, and must be got rid of, but he describes it as a wearisome annoyance rather than a real peril. στίγματα . These were indelible marks branded on the flesh. They might be self-inflicted: instances are recorded of soldiers branding themselves with the name of their general in token of their absolute devotion to his cause. But they were as a rule inflicted for a badge of lifelong service; the figure in the text is borrowed from the latter, which were either penal or sacred . The penal were stamped on malefactors, runaway slaves, sometimes on captives; but it is clear from the context that the author has in mind the στίγματα ἱρά mentioned by Herodotus in ii., 113, with which the Galatians also were familiar in Phrygian temples. A class of slaves ( ἱερόδουλοι ) attached for life to the service of a temple were branded with the name of the deity. Paul likens himself to these in respect of his lifelong dedication to the name of Jesus, and of the marks imprinted on his body, by which he was sealed for a servant of Jesus in perpetuity. These were doubtless the scars left by Jewish scourging, by the stones of Lystra and the Roman rods at Philippi, all tokens of faithful service to his Master in which he gloried.

Verse 18

Galatians 6:18 . μετὰ τ . πνεύματος . This form of the final blessing occurs also in 2 Timothy 4:22 and Philemon 1:25 , but not elsewhere: it was probably suggested here by the stress laid on the life of the Spirit in the Epistle.

The subscription ἀπὸ Ῥώμης is neither genuine nor correct. Its absence in the oldest MSS. stamps it as an addition of later date. The Epistle was evidently written before the Roman captivity (see Introduction, pp. 144 7).

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Galatians 6". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/galatians-6.html. 1897-1910.
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