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Bible Commentaries

Hamilton Smith's Writings

Galatians 6

Verses 1-18

Galatians 6

In contrast to the vanity of the flesh, of which the apostle has been speaking, and which provokes others and leads to envy, we are now exhorted to act in a spirit of love and grace to one another. Even if one be overtaken in a fault, let us seek to restore our failing brother, and do so in a right spirit. Let it not be in the spirit of the law which would naturally occupy us with our own good works and harden us towards our failing brother, but let it be in the spirit of meekness that gives us a sense of our own weakness while thinking tenderly of others.

(V. 2.) Moreover the spirit of grace and love would lead us, not merely to seek the restoration of a failing brother, but to enter into the sorrows of others and so help to relieve one another of the pressure of circumstances. So acting, we should be fulfilling "the law of Christ." We should be acting according to the law of love that marked His pathway. How tenderly He restored the failing disciples, when, with vain glory they provoked one another to strife, when they denied Him, and when all forsook Him ( Luk_22:24-32 : Mar_14:27 ; Mar_14:28 ). How blessedly, in every step of His path, He entered into our sorrows, and served us in love, as we read, "Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses" (Matt. viii. 17). Following in His steps, we shall serve one another in love, and in so doing set forth something of the excellencies of Christ, the great end for which we are left in this world.

(V. 3.) The apostle then warns us against the selfimportance of the flesh that acts in a spirit so entirely contrary to the law of Christ. The law of Sinai, though exhorting us to love our neighbour as ourselves, of necessity occupies us with our own works, and this too often leads a man to think himself to be something. Thus it had been with these Galatian believers, who having turned back to law had become "desirous of vain glory," with the result that, in place of serving one another in love, they were biting and devouring one another, "provoking" and "envying one another." The apostle speaks with unfeigned contempt of those who boast themselves to be something when they are nothing. The one who acts thus deceives himself, but no one else. No man is so small as the man that thinks he is great. No one can boast in the presence of Christ. Out of His presence we may, like the disciples of old, strive amongst ourselves as to who shall be accounted the greatest: in His presence the Apostle himself owns that he is "less than the least of all saints" ( Luk_22:24 : Eph_3:8 ).

(Vv. 4, 5.) Instead of deceiving ourselves by vain boasting, let us each test our own works. Are they works of law which magnify self, or works of love after the pattern of Christ? Paul had laboured in love in Galatia and the saints were the fruit of his work, and in that he can rejoice as belonging to himself. Others were using the apostle's work to exalt themselves and exclude him. Let us see that our works are true Christian works, that produce fruit in which we can rejoice. For each one is responsible for his own work, and in this sense "every man shall bear his own burden." Here, the word "burden" is a different word, in the original, to that translated "burden" in verse 2. In the first instance it has the sense of pressure which can be relieved or transferred to another. In this verse it implies a special load that has to be borne. We each are responsible for our own work and the result produced.

(V. 6.) Finally the apostle closes the exhortation as to our responsibilities to one another by reminding us to remember the needs of those who teach. Love will gladly seek to meet the temporal needs of those who minister to us the "good things" of the Spirit.

(Vv. 7-10.) The apostle now adds a solemn warning. He illustrates the government of God in our pathway through this world by the figure of sowing and reaping. Let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that, because we are Christians by the grace of God, we shall escape the results of our folly while in this life. "God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." On the one hand, if we act in the flesh, we shall suffer, however much the mercy of God may mitigate the suffering when the failure is judged. On the other hand, to act in the Spirit will carry its bright reward not only down here but in the life everlasting. Therefore, "Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." In the presence of opposition and conflict we may faint, seeing little result of "well doing" we may grow weary, but let us press on, waiting God's "due season." "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" ( Psa_126:5 ; Psa_126:6 ). Let us then seek to embrace every opportunity to "do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith."

(V. 11.) In closing his epistle the apostle presses upon these believers his deep anxiety for them by reminding them that he had written this long letter in his own handwriting, thus departing from his usual practice of having his letters transcribed and attaching his signature at the end.

(Vv. 12, 13.) Before closing he again makes a brief reference to the great subject of his epistle by once more exposing the character and motives of those who were troubling them. Already he has warned us that such were seeking to attract to themselves ( Gal_4:17 ), actuated by a spirit of "vain glory" ( Gal_5:26 ); now he plainly charges such with the "desire to make a fair show in the flesh," and thus to escape "persecution for the cross of Christ." Though circumcised, and thus making themselves responsible under law, they did not keep the law. But in pressing others to be circumcised they were linking them up with Judaism, and seeking thus to add to Jewish proselytes.

(V. 14.) Thus acting, these men sought to glory in a religious profession which brought them into favour with a world that had rejected Christ, and thus escape its persecution. In striking contrast, the apostle, representing the true Christian position, can say, "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." Paul had no desire for the favour of a world that had crucified the Lord, who in love had died to save him: and the world did not want a man that gloried in the Lord that it had crucified.

(Vv. 15, 16.) The apostle, realising the blessedness of the Christian position, as set forth "in Christ Jesus," can state that to enter into this position it availed nothing to be either a circumcised Jew or an uncircumcised Gentile. It was entirely a question of a new creation, in which these earthly distinctions have no place.

To walk according to this rule - the rule of new creation - is to respond in faith to the grace that has called us, and to walk in consistency with this grace as dead to the law, the flesh, and the world ( Gal_2:19 ; Gal_5:24 ; Gal_6:14 ). To such there will be peace and mercy, in their pathway through this world, not only upon the Gentile believers, such as the Galatians, but also "upon the Israel of God." The Israel of the flesh had crucified their Messiah, and come under judgment; the "Israel of God" were surely the godly remnant of the nation who by grace had believed and turned to the Lord. Mercy rested upon such.

(V. 17.) Having thus borne a faithful testimony to the truth, and against this solemn departure from the gospel he had preached to another gospel, which is not another, he can defy any man to trouble him by charging him with having sought the favour of the Jewish or Gentile world to escape persecution. If any man dared to question this let him look at the marks in his body which bore witness to the suffering he had endured as proof of his faithfulness to the gospel he had preached.

(V. 18.) Feeling the intensely solemn departure from the truth that had taken place amongst these saints, the apostle closes his epistle without any of his usual affectionate greetings. Nevertheless he desires that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ may be with them.

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Bibliographical Information
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Galatians 6". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hsw/galatians-6.html. 1832.