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SECTION 22. — SPECIAL APPLICATIONS.
Brethren, if a man be even overtaken in some trespass, ye spiritual ones restore such a one in the Spirit of meekness, looking to thyself lest also thou be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens; and thus fulfil the laws of Christ. For if an one thinks himself to be something, while he is nothing, he deceives his own mind. But let each one prove his own work: and in reference to himself alone he will have his ground of exultation, and not in reference to another man. For each one will bear his own load.
Let him that is instructed in the word take part with him that instructs, in all good things. Be not deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. Because he that sows for his own flesh, will from the flesh reap corruption: and he that sows for the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Moreover, in doing well let us not fail. For in due season we shall reap, if we do not faint. Therefore, as we have opportunity let us do good towards all men, and especially towards those of the household of the faith.
Already, in Galatians 5:26, Paul has given a negative application of the teaching of § 21. This is now followed by the sundry positive applications of §§ 20 and 21, chiefly in the direction of mutual help.
Galatians 6:1. Brothers; introduces suitably an appeal for brotherly aid.
Overtaken: as though the evil deed, i.e. strong temptation to it, had come suddenly upon him; and he had been surprised into sin. Paul thus softens the case he supposes.
Trespass: Romans 4:25; Romans 5:15 ff: a moral fall.
Ye, the spiritual ones: 1 Corinthians 2:15; 1 Corinthians 3:1 : men under the influence of the Holy Spirit, in contrast to the man who has fallen. This title recalls the special teaching of § 21. Each reader would judge whether it describes himself and is here reminded of the obligation it involves. Cp. Romans 15:1; Philippians 3:15.
Restore: so as to be again fully equipped for the service of God: same word in 1 Corinthians 1:10, see notes. [The present tense here and in 2 Corinthians 13:11, pictures the restoration as gradual.] Paul bids his fellow-Christians aid the recovery of their fallen brother.
In the Spirit of meekness: 1 Corinthians 4:21 : the Holy Spirit, as the unseen root and seed (Galatians 5:23) of meekness, and as the all-surrounding element of Christian correction. The conspicuous place of the Holy Spirit in § 21 permits no other exposition. The inserted word Spirit was suggested probably by spiritual. Never are we in greater peril of undue self-assertion, and therefore in greater need of meekness, than in reproving others. For their fall evokes in us a sense of superiority. How deeply Paul felt this, we learn here and in 1 Corinthians 4:21; 2 Corinthians 10:1; 2 Timothy 2:25.
Looking: more fully, looking with a purpose: see note, 2 Corinthians 4:18. The purpose is immediately stated.
Tempted: our loyalty to Christ subjected to a test: see under 2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 Corinthians 7:5. These words further soften the supposed case by suggesting that if others had been similarly tempted they might also have fallen. A remembrance of this will mingle meekness with our reproof. The change from ye to thou suggests how personal and solitary is temptation. In the hour of trial we stand or fall alone.
The exceptional case suggested in this verse implies the moral soundness of the Galatian Christians generally, in striking contrast to the doctrinal unsoundness which evoked in Paul fear lest his labours for them should be in vain. This implies further that morality, apart from correct doctrine, is not sufficient for the vitality of a Church.
Galatians 6:2. Burdens: literally heavy-weights: same word in 2 Corinthians 4:17; Matthew 20:12; Acts 15:28; Revelation 2:24; 1 Thessalonians 2:6.
One another’s: emphatic, in contrast to bearing only our own burdens.
Bear: same word in same sense in Romans 15:1. Galatians 6:1 suggests that Paul refers chiefly to loving and intelligent sympathy with a fallen brother, making his spiritual loss our own loss and sorrow, and using our powers to raise him when pressed down under a consciousness of his own sin. An example of such sympathy we find in 2 Corinthians 11:29. These words imply that this sympathy and aid may involve us in difficulties, like the carrying of a heavy burden; and exhort us to submit to such for our brother’s good.
The law of Christ: the rule of conduct supported by His authority; cp. the Law of Moses; in Luke 2:22; Luke 24:44; John 7:23; Acts 13:39; Acts 15:5; Acts 27:23. It refers evidently to the precept quoted in Galatians 5:14. And the phrase confirms the historical correctness of Matthew 22:39, etc. where Christ is recorded to have paid to this precept special honor.
Fulfil: or, fill up to the full: same strong word in 1 Thessalonians 2:16, fill up their sins; 1 Corinthians 16:17; Philippians 2:30. To sympathise with, and endeavour to raise, the fallen, is a genuine mark of Christian love. Just as the words spiritual and spirit bring to bear upon the exhortation of Galatians 6:1 the teaching of § 21; so this phrase brings to bear upon it the teaching of § 20. Thus Paul exemplifies each of these foundation principles of Christian morality.
Galatians 6:3. To be something: of intrinsic worth: same words in Galatians 2:6; cp. Acts 5:36.
He being nothing: a suggestion which each reader would test in reference to his own case. It was Paul’s judgment about himself: 2 Corinthians 12:11. The wisest and best cannot in the least degree, by his own skill or strength, avoid the perils which surround him and attain his highest interest. To think we can, is to inflict on ourselves mental-deception: a word akin to this last, in Titus 1:10; cp. James 1:26.
By making Galatians 6:3 a reason for Galatians 6:2, Paul suggests the all-important lesson that an inflated self-estimate makes us careless about the burdens of others, and thus hinders us from fulfilling the law of love. Similar teaching is suggested in Galatians 5:26; 1 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Corinthians 5:2. Vainglory is a subtle and dangerous form of selfishness; and always obscures moral vision and weakens brotherly affection. There is therefore no need to join Galatians 6:3 to Galatians 6:1, making Galatians 6:2 a sort of parenthesis: and the importance of Galatians 6:2 forbids this.
Galatians 6:4. His own work: looked upon as one whole, (cp. 1 Corinthians 3:13 ff; 1 Corinthians 9:1,) including (2 Corinthians 11:15) various works.
Conspicuous contrast to the mental hallucination of Galatians 6:3.
Prove: test with good intent; see under 2 Corinthians 13:5. Paul bids us, instead of indulging in vain subjective dreams, to put to the test, and thus discover the worth of, the total objective result of our labours.
And then; emphasises the above exhortation as the condition of what follows.
Exultation: see under Romans 2:17.
Ground-of-exultation in-reference-to: similar words in same sense in Romans 4:2. We are all prone to indulge in an exultation based upon a comparison of ourselves with others who seem to be inferior to us. A conspicuous example of this, was the Pharisee of Luke 18:11. All such exultation is delusive: for the inferiority of others is no measure of our absolute worth. But a consideration of God’s work in us and through our agency, leaving out of sight all comparison with others, may justly give rise to deep gratitude and exultant joy that He has condescended to use us as agents of good: for all such is exultation in God. Of this, a conspicuous example is Paul himself: cp. Romans 15:17; 1 Corinthians 9:15 f; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 11:10. Moreover, if we limit our exultation to actual results, (each one his own work,) our exultation will frequently be turned into deep self-abasement. In 2 Corinthians 10:12-18 we find the same thought as in this verse, more fully developed.
Galatians 6:5. Load: something to be carried, whether heavy or light; akin to a verb denoting to carry. Hence we have, with the same word, both light and heavy loads: Matthew 11:30; Matthew 23:4; Luke 11:46. It thus differs from the word in Galatians 6:2, of which the chief idea is heavy weight. In Acts 27:10, it denotes a ship’s cargo. Paul’s exhortation to cease comparing ourselves with others and look at ourselves alone, he now supports by saying that there is a load from which no one can release us, a load of his own which in spite of all brotherly help each one will himself bear. This is the solitary side of every one’s Christian life. Remembrance of it should deter us from comparisons with others, all which overlook our solitary personal responsibility, And, that the help we can render is thus limited, should move us to render to our brethren all the help we can.
Galatians 6:6. From a specific exhortation in Galatians 6:1 to aid the fallen, Paul passed on in Galatians 6:2 to a more general exhortation to help the burdened ones, and supported this in Galatians 6:3 by a warning against inflated self-estimate and in Galatians 6:4 by a suggestion that each test his own work apart from comparison with others and in view (Galatians 6:5) of his own personal and solitary responsibility. He now goes a step further from the specific to the general, by bidding all his readers, whom he divides into two all-inclusive classes, to join together in doing every kind of good.
Let-him-take-part or be-partner-with: either join with others in some action, or share with them something belonging to them or to him. Same or cognate word in Romans 12:13; Romans 15:26 f; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 2 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 9:13; 2 Corinthians 13:13.
Instructed: the Greek original of the English word catechumen: same word in Romans 2:18; 1 Corinthians 14:19; Luke 1:4; Acts 18:25; Acts 21:21; Acts 21:24. From the standpoint of Galatians 6:5, Paul looks at each one, instructed or instructing, singly cp. Galatians 6:1. The simple term, the word, (Colossians 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:6,) reveals the unique grandeur of the Gospel as the one Word of God and of life.
Him that instructs: including Paul himself and all those who, church-officers or others, exercise the gift of teaching. This division of church-members implies that regular instruction was even then a part of church order.
All good things: either material good; as in Luke 1:53; Luke 12:18 f; Luke 16:25; or good actions, especially beneficence, as always with Paul, e.g. Galatians 6:10; Romans 10:15; Romans 2:10; Romans 7:13; Romans 8:28; Romans 9:11; Romans 12:9; Romans 12:21; Romans 13:3 f; Romans 14:16; Romans 15:2; Romans 16:19. The plural number suggests the variety of good things. To these belong (1) the restoration of the fallen and (2) the bearing of others’ burdens. This exhortation is included in the final exhortation of Galatians 6:10. Paul intimates that they who teach others must practise good things; and that in this they are to be joined by their pupils.
Following Chrysostom and Jerome, many expositors suppose that all good things denotes liberal maintenance for Christian teachers; chiefly on the ground that the word rendered take-part has the sense of Christian liberality in three of four other places in Paul’s Epistles, and that not otherwise can we account, for the unexpected mention here of the teachers and the taught. But it is inconceivable that Paul would touch for a moment, in language altogether indefinite and ambiguous, and then leave, a matter so definite and specific, and one of which there is no hint in the foregoing or following context. Moreover, the tremendous warning of Galatians 6:7 leads us to expect in Galatians 6:6 some indication of an error or peril proportionately great, as we find in the other places where similar though less solemn language is used; and a correction of the error in the words following, i.e. in Galatians 6:7 b, Galatians 6:8. Again, the maintenance of those set apart from secular work to serve the Church is not liberality but payment of a just debt. It is most unlikely that Paul would urge his readers to this duty by bidding them share with their teachers all their earthly goods. Indeed, he seems rather to dissuade from having many paid teachers in the infant Church. Although claiming for himself and others a right to be paid, he refused ( 1 Corinthians 9:15) to assert his claim; and in this he was setting ( 2 Thessalonians 3:9) an example for others. Once only (1 Timothy 5:17 f) apparently, near the close of his life, Paul refers to the maintenance of ordinary church-teachers. And, in the absence of other proof, this general and sweeping exhortation cannot be accepted as evidence that such teachers were supported in the Churches of Galatia. For it gives good sense, as shown in the above exposition, without supposing any such reference.
Paul divided his readers into teachers and taught in order perhaps to say that restoration of the fallen and help for the burdened must not be left to the shepherds of the flock, but that all must join in all such works of mercy. That the metaphor of seed (Galatians 6:7) refers in 1 Corinthians 9:11; 2 Corinthians 9:6 to liberality, has little weight: for it is very common in various applications. And the tremendous language which introduces the metaphor suggests that Paul was thinking of something more solemn than maintenance of Christian teachers.
The spread of the other exposition is easily explained by its usefulness to Church authorities.
Galatians 6:7. Be not deceived: 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15:33, in each case introducing a safeguard against a serious moral error referred to in the foregoing words: cp. James 1:16.
Is-not-mocked: treated with open ridicule and contempt: same word in Proverbs 1:30; Proverbs 15:20; Job 22:19; Psalms 80:6; Jeremiah 20:7; 1 Maccabees 7:34; 2 Maccabees 7:39. It implies that to disregard what follows is outrageous insult to God, and declares solemnly that such insult God will not tolerate. Galatians 6:7 b justifies this solemn protest, by stating a great principle worthy of it.
He will also reap: same words in 2 Corinthians 9:6, referring to the measure of the harvest. But here Paul refers to its kind. If we sow wheat, we shall reap wheat, etc. A universal principle of widest application, viz. that actions are seeds reappearing in a harvest of results, by the outworking of their own organic laws, to be their authors’ abiding possession. Thus
(cp. 2 Corinthians 5:10) a man’s own actions become, in their developed consequences, their own exact retribution. Same favourite metaphor in 2 Corinthians 9:6, where see notes, 1 Corinthians 9:11; James 3:18; Job 4:8; Psalms 126:5; Hosea 8:7.
Galatians 6:8. Restatement of the metaphor of Galatians 6:7 in view of the contrast of the flesh and the Spirit asserted and expounded in § 21. The metaphor was introduced because two widely different harvests are possible.
[The all-important Greek word
Galatians 2:8, for apostleship… for the Gentiles. Sometimes, as in Galatians 6:4 in reference to himself alone, it is still less definite noting merely a point of view from which an object is regarded. But in every case it denotes direction, either of actual movement, or tendency, or thought.]
In the words for his own flesh Paul forsakes the form of his metaphor in order to describe more clearly and fully the reality underlying it. Had he continued the form adopted in Galatians 6:7, he would have written he that sows carnal things will also reap carnal things. But he describes the only two kinds of action and result possible to men not (as in Galatians 6:7) by their nature but by their aim, suggesting that this is the true test of conduct. Yet he retains the words sow and reap to keep before us the great truth that, by the outworking of their own nature, actions will reappear, multiplied, in their results.
The flesh: not the organized body with its various members; but the material constitution of the body, common to men and animals and desiring (Galatians 6:16) various material objects needful or pleasant to it. The seeds sown for the flesh are actions designed to gratify desires prompted by bodily life.
His own flesh; suggests the essential selfishness of these desires.
From the flesh: or out of the flesh: same transition of prepositions in Romans 1:17. If to gratify our own flesh be our aim, the flesh will be to us a source of corruption. For corruption is inseparable from flesh of all kinds: by its own nature it goes to ruin, and in repulsive forms. For this reason ( 1 Corinthians 15:50 : cp. 1 Corinthians 15:42) it cannot enter the kingdom of God. It is needless to say that Paul refers here to the ruin of eternal death. On the principle that a man’s actions will reappear in their results, Paul declares that they who choose as their aim gratification of the flesh will as an appropriate and inevitable consequence receive back from the flesh that corruption which essentially belongs to it.
It is useless and needless to make this important and clear teaching fit in at all points with the metaphor of seed and harvest. See under Romans 11:24. All suggestions about different fields in which the seed is sown fail utterly: for the kind of harvest depends not on the field but on the seed.
The metaphor simply teaches that actions, like seeds, reproduce themselves in their results. This great truth justifies and satisfies the metaphor.
The Spirit, can be no other than the Spirit of God, as throughout Div. III. Like the material of our bodies, He claims that the aim of our life be to follow His guidance and to work out His purposes. To act with this in view, is to sow for the Spirit. And such action will, in virtue of the essential nature of the Spirit, be followed by eternal life. For He is the Spirit of life who makes free from the law of sin and of death. Cp. Romans 6:21-23, where, without the metaphor, we have the same thought.
In this verse Paul teaches that the consequences of actions, and therefore their moral worth, are determined by their aim: a truth indisputable and of the highest importance. Many actions in themselves good are yet, because of a selfish aim, universally condemned and despised. By associating this truth with the metaphor of seed and harvest, Paul teaches that the consequences which follow different aims do so by organic and essential laws of human action. And he places the same truth in a more conspicuous light by deviating in some measure, in order to assert it in plainest terms, from a favourite metaphor.
Galatians 6:9. Another point in the same subject, viz. continuance, even under difficulties.
Well-doing: or doing the excellent thing, that which is morally beautiful. Same word in Romans 7:21.
Fail: turn out badly in something, lose heart and give up through weariness or fear; as in 2 Corinthians 4:1; 2 Corinthians 4:16. It suggests that circumstances may arise to test our perseverance.
In due season: literally in its own season, the set time when, in virtue of the laws of the moral world, the seed will produce fruit.
Faint not: through failure in spiritual strength. The parallel term fail denotes rather failure in Christian courage. Each term involves the other: for the brave heart will find strength. We have no hint that Paul refers to the weariness of sowing: and toil is not specially conspicuous in the sower. Certainly he does not refer to the weariness of harvest: for in the eternal harvest there will be no toil.
Galatians 6:10. Practical inference, summing up § 22.
As we have, etc.: let our action correspond with our opportunity. [
Opportunity: same word as season in Galatians 6:9. The harvest has a season of its own, and so has the sowing.
Do good, literally work the good: same words in Romans 2:10; Ephesians 4:28. Contrast Romans 13:10. It suggests the labour of doing good.
Good: including (Galatians 6:1) the restoration of the fallen brother, bearing (Galatians 6:2) the burdens of others, joining (Galatians 6:6) with teachers in all good works, sowing (Galatians 6:8) for the Spirit, and (Galatians 6:9) continuing in all this without weariness.
To (or towards) all men: the direction of our beneficence.
They of the household of faith, or those belonging to the house of faith: same word in Ephesians 2:19; 1 Timothy 5:8; in 1 Samuel 10:14 for a male domestic servant, and in Leviticus 18:6; Leviticus 18:12 f, 17 for relatives in blood or law. The word is sometimes used in a more general sense for any close relationship; and for those who devote themselves to some special matter, e.g..
In § 22 Paul illustrates the two great principles of Christian morality expounded in §§ 20 and 21 respectively, by applying them to the mutual intercourse of members of a Christian Church. These he exhorts to show Christian love by bearing burdens one for another, e.g. by restoring any one who has fallen; and warns against inflated self-estimate, a chief hindrance to mutual help, urging rather a reasonable estimate of each one’s own work and independent responsibility. This thought reminds Paul that life is a seed time to be followed by harvest, a truth which he applies to the two principles of action expounded at length in § 21, the Flesh and the Spirit; as already while speaking of a brother’s fall he has pointed, to the Spirit as the source of the meekness needful in those who try to restore him. And upon all his readers, teachers and taught, he urges good doing of all kinds; and patient continuance therein. While all men have a claim to help, our fellow Christians have a special claim.
DIVISION III. is the needful complement of the doctrine of Justification by Faith asserted in its native ruggedness in DIV. II. This doctrine, Paul does not qualify by expounding at length what he means by faith and by justification, lest by so doing he should weaken its force or perplex his readers; but guards it from abuse by placing beside it the moral teaching of Div. III.
Although none can, by good works, obtain the favour of God, and although all who believe the Gospel are already sons of God and heirs of His kingdom, yet from that kingdom will be excluded all who commit sin and consciously or unconsciously make self-indulgence the aim of life. This plainly asserted truth makes intelligent belief of the Gospel promise impossible except to those who earnestly resolve to forsake sin. On the other hand, the immovable certainty of the promise assures us that God will work in us the victory over sin needful for its fulfillment. In this way we have a practical harmony of these all-important doctrines. And neither of them invalidates or dilutes the other. This harmony is further discussed in Diss. vi.
Christian morality is here, made to rest on two massive pillars: (1) the great commandment which in the Mosaic Law sums up our whole duty to our fellows, viz. to love them as ourselves; and (2) the Christian doctrine that the Holy Spirit given to those who believe the Gospel seeks to guide their steps and is essentially hostile to the influences of bodily life. These great principles of morality Paul expounds; and in a few words gives examples, both general and in detail, of their application to matters of daily life.
SECTION 23. — THE ADVERSARIES ARE INSINCERE.
See with how large letters I have written to you with my own hand. So many as wish to look well in the flesh, these are commanding you to receive circumcision; only in order that they may not, through the cross of Christ, be persecuted. For neither do they who are receiving circumcision themselves keep law. But they wish you to receive circumcision, in order that in your flesh they may exult. But far from me be it to exult except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; through which to me the world is crucified, and I crucified to the world. For neither circumcision is anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And so many as walk by this rule peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
Galatians 6:11. With how large letters: so R.V. This rendering is determined by the Greek dative which denotes the instrument with which Paul wrote, viz. large characters, not the epistles written; by the word rendered large which denotes not number but size, whereas a long epistle would involve merely the number of characters used; and by Paul’s constant use (17 times) of another word, the Greek original of our word epistle, to denote a written communication. That Galatians 6:11 refers to Galatians 6:11-18, and not to the foregoing Epistle, is suggested by Paul’s custom of adding to each Epistle ( 2 Thessalonians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 16:21; Colossians 4:18) a short autograph, as a mark of genuineness and perhaps also as an expression of warm friendship. If so, the past tense, I-have-written, may have been suggested to Paul by the four preceding words lying already written before him while writing this word; and by easy transition of thought to his readers’ point of view. Cp. sent, in Acts 15:27; Acts 23:30. But we cannot safely quote Philemon 1:19; Philemon 1:21 as examples: for these refer in each case to foregoing words. The general usage of the Greek language forbids us to accept the word I-have-written as proof that the whole Epistle was written in large characters by Paul’s own hand. And his custom suggests that only this closing paragraph was so written. The size of the letters used proclaims, like capitals in modern printing, the earnestness of this concluding summary of the foregoing Epistle.
Galatians 6:12. To-look-well: literally to-put-on-a-good-face; cp. Galatians 2:6; 2 Corinthians 5:12; 2 Corinthians 10:7; Matthew 16:3.
In-the-flesh: in outward bodily life, the element of the desired good appearance.
Are-commanding-you: so Galatians 2:3 : by proclaiming (Acts 15:1) that in order to be saved you must be circumcised; and by a personal influence which the Galatian Christians seemed unable to resist. [The Greek presents in Galatians 6:12-13 direct attention to a process going on, but which Paul hopes to stay. So Galatians 1:6; Galatians 3:3; Galatians 5:3-4.]
That they may not be persecuted: their only aim.
For the cross of Christ: on the ground that they preach a crucified Messiah. A close parallel in Galatians 5:11. It implies that the seducers were professed Christians; that of Christian teaching the death of Christ was an essential and conspicuous element; and that this element (cp. 1 Corinthians 1:23) was the professed ground of the Jews’ hostility to the Gospel. But that the seducers hoped to escape persecution on this ground by proclaiming the necessity of circumcision, suggests that the real ground of the Jews’ opposition was that the Gospel overturned the exclusive spiritual prerogatives claimed by them under the Old Covenant, of which covenant circumcision was a conspicuous element; and that their scorn of the Crucified One was chiefly a means of pouring contempt on those who were breaking down, by a Gospel free for all men, the Jewish wall of partition. And we can well conceive the mass of the Jews looking with indifference or with favour on a profession of Christianity which did not interfere with, but rather exalted, their fancied spiritual pre-eminence. Possibly, the early success of the Gospel at Jerusalem (Acts 2:41; Acts 4:4; Acts 6:1) was aided by oversight on the part of all concerned, of the logical consequence of the Gospel so boldly preached by Jews and so numerously accepted.
The word only implies that the men referred to cared nothing for circumcision in itself, (or for the Old Covenant,) that their apparently eager advocacy of it was only a means by which they hoped to escape persecution while yet remaining members of the Church of Christ. To believe in Him while preaching circumcision, was thus a safe and cheap form of religion. Such an aim Paul properly calls a desire to make a good appearance in outward bodily life, i.e. in that side of life which is under the eyes of men around. And since their aim was to avoid, while yet believing the Gospel and thus as they vainly thought securing the blessings of the life to come, the bodily hardship and peril which otherwise, Jewish hostility might cause them; their conduct was really a sowing for the flesh, and their actions were works of the flesh. For, protection of the body was to them a guiding principle. Paul thus reveals the secret and unworthy thought of the seducers, and brings to bear upon it (hence the word flesh) the teaching of §§ 21, 22. And this personal and skilful application reveals still further the appropriateness and value of that teaching.
The men referred to here were probably Jewish Christians chiefly. For such were most likely to press Gentile converts to be circumcised, and to look upon this as a way of escape from persecution by non-Christian Jews. But, since even Gentile Christians may have been exposed to the same persecution, some circumcised Gentiles may have joined their Jewish brethren in eagerness for the rite as a means of escape from Jewish hostility.
Galatians 6:13. Proof of the foregoing unworthy motive.
They who receive circumcision: Gentile converts made from time to time by the false teachers.
Not even do these themselves keep prescriptions of law: although they are enrolling themselves among the people of the Old Covenant. Whether this refers to ritual or moral prescriptions, is not stated: and it does not affect the argument; for both elements had the same authority. It implies that some of these Gentile converts to Judaism lived in evident disregard of Jewish legal restrictions, or possibly of morality. And that their seducers tolerated this neglect proves that regard for the Law was not the motive of this zealous advocacy of circumcision.
But they wish: including probably the seducers and referring chiefly to them. For, to them chiefly refers the same word wish in Galatians 6:12: they are the chief matter of Galatians 6:12-13, their converts being introduced only casually in proof of the motive of the seducers: and theirs chiefly must have been this desire and exultation, though shared by their Gentile converts. The change of subject between Galatians 6:13 a and 13b is but an easy return to the chief matter of the paragraph. And it would be the more easy because the class referred to in Galatians 6:13 b included some, or most, of those referred to in Galatians 6:13 a; for Gentiles undergoing circumcision would themselves wish other Gentiles to follow their example, feeling that each fresh circumcision was a tribute to their recently adopted principles. Thus all the Christians in Galatia eager for circumcision, whether Jews or Gentiles, would form practically one body in opposition to the teaching of Paul.
The reading in the R.V. text, they who receive (or are receiving) circumcision, is preferred by all editors since Lachmann, and has rather better documentary evidence than that in the R.V. margin, who have been circumcised. And this latter looks suspiciously like a correction by copyists who could not understand the other reading. The above exposition gives to the reading adopted its most natural meaning. Certainly it is easier to suppose a return, after the parenthesis of Galatians 6:13 a, to Paul’s chief matter than to expound they who receive circumcision as “the advocates of circumcision.”
In order that, etc.: selfish purpose of the seducers.
Exult: see under Romans 2:17; 1 Corinthians 1:29.
Your flesh: your circumcised bodies. These were the sought for element of exultation. They wished to point in triumph to the visible mark of proselyting success, as a tribute to their personal influence and to the grandeur of Jewish privileges; and to use this mark as a shelter for themselves against Jewish persecution. The word flesh, instead of body, reminds us that the matter of their triumph belonged to the outward and perishing and seductive side of human life. Cp. 2 Corinthians 11:18, boast according to flesh; and Philippians 3:3 f, confidence in the flesh. Thus, as in Galatians 6:12, this word keeps before us the teaching of §§ 21, 22.
Galatians 6:14. Me: in emphatic contrast to those who boast in circumcision; literally, to me let there be no exultation.
In the cross: a marked contrast to in your flesh. Various matters, e.g. those quoted in 2 Corinthians 11:22; Philippians 3:4 ff, and Paul’s matchless mental and moral power, might have aroused in him emotions of confidence and joy. But to him all these were nothing. Yet the heart which was indifferent to them was kindled into a glow of emotion by a symbol of his nation’s degradation, (for the cross was a Roman punishment,) by the cross on which his beloved Master died a death of pain and shame.
The above wonderful statement, Galatians 6:14 b explains. Paul cannot boast except in the cross of Christ because on that cross himself has been crucified.
Through which, or whom: each rendering grammatically correct; and certain decision impossible. But since these words evidently explain Paul’s exultation, of which not Christ but the cross of Christ is the specific and astounding element here, this is probably his precise reference. By means of the cross on which Christ died the world itself has been crucified.
Crucified: as in Galatians 2:20; Galatians 5:24. It gives vividness to the mode of Christ’s death, and declares that in some real sense both the world and Paul have shared that death.
The world: the entire realm of men and things around. [The absence twice of the Greek article bids us look at the world qualitatively, i.e. in view of its magnitude, variety, and power: to Paul a world has been crucified.] The world was once to him a living and vast and tremendous reality, Upon its smile hung all his hopes: its frown was ruin. Consequently, he was the world’s servant and slave: and the world was his absolute and imperious and cruel lord. This service was hopeless and degrading bondage. But now, through the death of Christ upon the cross, it has utterly and for ever passed away. The world can no longer terrify or beguile him. Thus Paul is free. Just so, around the corpse of Henry VIII., his courtiers felt themselves to be for the first time free; and breathed more freely because those lips and that brow and arm were henceforth silent and still and powerless. Also through death came Paul’s freedom; through Christ’s death upon the cross, which had brought about the death of Paul’s tremendous tyrant. But the world was dead relatively, not absolutely. To thousands it was still, and is now, a master possessing irresistible power.
Only to those joined to Christ Crucified is the world dead. Hence the word to me, thrust to the front for conspicuous emphasis.
And I to the world: added to remind us that, although it is the world which through Christ’s death has lost its vital power and may therefore be said to be crucified, yet the real change has taken place in Paul. By union with the Crucified his own past life of bondage and sin has come to an end. By his own, as well as by his Master’s death the captive has become free. Thus we have a triple crucifixion. Christ has set up His cross between Paul and the world: and they are separated completely and for ever. This triple crucifixion and its mysterious instrument evoke joy and a shout of liberty. And they forbid all other boasting: for all else belongs to a world which has been crucified. Thus the astounding statement of Galatians 6:14 a is explained by the more astounding statement of Galatians 6:14 b.
Galatians 6:15. Galatians 6:14 is practically a refusal to boast in any way about circumcision. This refusal Paul now supports by again saying that circumcision is neither gain nor loss. Since it can (Galatians 5:6) do nothing, it is (cp. 1 Corinthians 7:19) worth nothing. And therefore Paul cannot boast in it.
New creature, or new creation: see under 2 Corinthians 5:17; cp. Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 4:24. So utterly lost is man that nothing less than a new putting forth of creative power can save him.
This verse implies that circumcision was not a condition of the putting forth by God of this creative power; as it was a condition (Genesis 17:10) of the covenant with Abraham. That it was a condition also of the New Covenant, the false teachers evidently asserted. And of this Better Covenant Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, also outward rites, are conditions: for they were expressly ordained by Christ, and therefore refusal of them is disobedience to Him: cp. Galatians 3:27; Romans 6:4; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 11:25. But circumcision belonged to the earlier and now abrogated Covenant. To assert its perpetual obligation was to set up again the Mosaic Covenant which made the favour of God contingent on obedience to a multitude of moral and ritual prescriptions. No such obligation was involved in the requirement of Baptism. In the baptism of converts Paul might justly exult, as a triumph of the Gospel and such exultation would be an exulting in God. So might others in earlier days exult in the circumcision of born heathens, as a turning to the God of Israel. That to Paul circumcision is nothing, proves how completely in his view the Old Covenant had passed away. Thus these words are a summing up, at the close of the Epistle, of its chief argument, which, by their similarity to Galatians 5:6 at the close of that argument, they recall.
Galatians 6:16. Walk: same word in Galatians 5:25; Romans 4:12. Thus, just as Galatians 6:15 sums up the argument of DIV. II., so Galatians 6:16, which bids us make the principle asserted in Galatians 6:15 our rule of conduct, recalls the summary in Galatians 5:25 of the argument of DIV. III.
Rule: literally, canon: see under 2 Corinthians 10:13. It keeps up the metaphor suggested by the word walk. The principle in Galatians 6:15 was a marked out line along which Paul’s readers should direct their steps.
Shall walk: throughout all future time.
Peace: as in Romans 1:7, where see notes; cp. Ephesians 6:23; 2 Thessalonians 3:16. It is a profound calm and rest, a consciousness of absolute security, derived from the presence and smile of God; the opposite of discord and of fear.
Upon them: for this peace comes down from heaven.
Mercy: Ephesians 2:4; 1 Timothy 1:2 : that which prompts help to the helpless. That we need mercy, implies that we cannot save ourselves from wretchedness. Paul’s thought rises from the peace which fills and keeps our hearts to the mercy of God from which it flows.
The Israel of God: that which God recognises as His chosen people: either the entire Church of God, or the Jewish part of it. The latter exposition would mark out (cp. and in Mark 1:5; Mark 16:7) the Jewish Christians as being specially objects of this good wish: the former would imply that they who accept the principle announced in Galatians 6:15 occupy now the place of honour granted of old to the sacred nation. And this latter is probably Paul’s meaning. For it is most unlikely that in this farewell blessing he would separate the Jewish Christians from, and raise them above, their Gentile brethren, when it has been the purpose of the whole Epistle to place Jews and Gentiles on the same level as equally children and heirs of Abraham: see Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:9; Galatians 3:14; Galatians 3:28; Galatians 4:31; cp. Romans 4:11; Romans 4:16 f. Whereas, to speak of uncircumcised Gentile believers as the Israel of God, is a triumphant practical application, at the close of the Epistle, of its chief argument which has just been summed up in the assertion of Galatians 6:15. And it is a suitable conclusion of § 23 which is specially directed against Jewish opponents.
These words recall Psalms 125:5; Psalms 128:6.
After proving by the arguments of this Epistle that the teaching of the disturbers is false, Paul now covers them with confusion by revealing the secret and unworthy motives of their apparent loyalty to the Law of Moses. Indeed, the proved falsity of the teaching prepares us to find that the teachers are insincere. Paul says that their professed loyalty is for the sake of appearances, a means of shielding themselves against persecution from the acknowledged enemies of the Crucified One. Such fear of men he disowned for himself utterly in Galatians 1:10, before he began the argument of the Epistle, as though indicating beforehand the secret source of the teaching he was about to combat. And to this way of escape from persecution he referred again in Galatians 5:11 at the close of his chief argument. A proof that this is his opponents’ real motive, Paul finds in the conduct of the Gentiles who from time to time receive circumcision. For, as matter of fact, they do not keep the Law. Consequently, desire that the Law be kept cannot be the motive of those who are so eager for the circumcision of Gentiles. Another motive for this eagerness is the tribute to the spiritual prerogatives of Israel, and to the personal influence of the proselyters, involved in the reception of the rite by fresh converts from heathenism. Probably, Galatians 6:12-13 would come to all parties concerned with an overwhelming force which we cannot now appreciate. For, doubtless, Paul’s charge would be confirmed in various ways unknown to us. His outspoken accusation would explain conduct otherwise inexplicable. For unworthy motives, however carefully concealed, reveal themselves in a multitude of casual indications.
These hidden and base aims, thus brought to light, Paul puts utterly to shame by pointing to the Cross of Christ as his only ground of boasting; and to the total separation from the world, from its allurements and its terrors, which that Cross has wrought in him. And this exultation rests on the doctrines advocated throughout the Epistle. Upon all who hold them and make them their rule of life, Paul pronounces a rich blessing from God.
In §§ 21, 22 we learn that the Holy Spirit given to believers is designed to save them from the rule of the flesh. The word flesh twice in § 23 brings this teaching to bear upon the disturbers in Galatia. For, their unworthy motives belong altogether to the domain of bodily life. They exult in a merely outward rite deprived now of all inward and spiritual significance, because it offers them deliverance from the bodily affliction with which they are threatened by the enemies of Christ. Consequently, their eagerness for circumcision is but a sowing for the flesh.
SECTION 24. — FAREWELL.
CH. 6:17, 18.
Henceforth let no one cause me trouble. For I bear the brandmarks of Jesus in my body. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your Spirit, Brethren, Amen.
Henceforth: the past troubles being more than sufficient. Let no one trouble me: literally, labours let no one afford me, viz. such toil and weariness as that imposed on Paul by his opponents.
The marks: a technical term for tattoo or brand marks, which were frequent with slaves, criminals, soldiers, and even votaries of some particular deity. E.g. Herodotus (bk. vii. 233) says of the Thebans who at Thermopylae turned to the Persians; “the more part of them, by Xerxes command, they marked with royal marks.” So 3 Macc. ii. 29, “marked in the body by fire with the ivy-leaf sign of Dionysus.” Such marks were forbidden to Israel: Leviticus 19:28. Since these marks were evidently a badge of honour, and since there is no reference here to military life, whereas Paul ever rejoices to call himself a servant or slave of Christ and speak of him in Galatians 6:14; Galatians 6:18 as his Lord, it is easier to understand the word here in this last sense.
In my body; suggests that he refers to the scars received in the many scourgings, imprisonments, and other hardships, (2 Corinthians 11:24,) endured in the service of Christ. These scars proclaimed, in contrast to the disturbers whose chief thought was to escape persecution, how faithful that service had been. Therefore, as insignia of his Master, Paul bore them in triumph. And, because of the sufferings of which these marks were witnesses, he claimed immunity from the weariness caused him by the contention of the Judaizers.
The advocates of circumcision point with pride to the circumcised bodies of their converts. Paul points to his own body which bears marks of hardships endured for Christ, these hardships testifying the faithfulness of his service. This was no mere exultation in the flesh: for these scars in the flesh had deep spiritual significance, inasmuch as they reveal the work in Paul’s spirit of the Spirit of God. They place Paul and his career in significant contrast to his opponents. Than this silent comparison, no appeal could be more forceful.
Galatians 6:18. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: as in ( 1 Corinthians 16:23;) 2 Corinthians 13:13.
Your spirit: as in Romans 1:9; Romans 8:10; Romans 8:16; 1 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Corinthians 5:3-5; 1 Corinthians 14:14-16; 1 Corinthians 14:32; 1 Corinthians 16:18, 2 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 7:13. It is perhaps suggested here by the contrast of my body: although in 2 Timothy 4:22; Philemon 1:25 we have similar words without any such contrast. Paul desires that in the noblest element of his readers’ nature, in that part of them which is nearest to God and most like God and on which the Spirit of God directly operates, the smile of Christ may shine upon them. Parting with them, after a letter of severe condemnation, he calls them brothers. And with a concluding Amen he confirms his parting benediction.
THE DISTURBERS IN GALATIA. The letter before us is evidently an attempt to recall the Galatian Christians from an apostacy already making progress among them and threatening to destroy utterly the Churches of Galatia. Such a letter can be understood only so far as we understand the errors it was designed to correct. We will therefore gather together, before reviewing the Epistle, all indications, which are found chiefly in the Epistle itself, of these errors; and endeavour thus to gain a view of the teaching which Paul here combats.
Beside the errors prevalent in Galatia, we meet in this Epistle with three types of Jewish error, viz. in certain false brethren at Jerusalem, Galatians 2:4; in some men who came from Jerusalem to Antioch, Galatians 2:11-12; and in the Jews resident at Antioch, Galatians 2:13. (1) That the false brethren at Jerusalem are said to have crept secretly into the Church in order to understand the Gospel that thus they might overthrow it, proves that their Christian profession was only a mask, that they were simply traitors in the camp. They were Jews who rejected Christianity and used against it weapons of deceit. Similar men, apparently connected with the Church at Corinth, are described and denounced in 2 Corinthians 11:13 ff. (2) That the Jews whose arrival at Antioch (cp. Acts 15:1) wrought so marked and evil a change there were guilty of like deception, Paul gives no hint. They may have been men who, after Jewish birth and training, finding the Law insufficient to save them, had accepted Jesus as the promised Messiah, had bowed to Him as their Lord and still clung to Him as their Saviour; but who nevertheless felt themselves bound by their ancient Law and believed that without obedience to its prescriptions they could not enjoy the favour of God or obtain the Eternal Life promised by Christ. Possibly, sincerity of belief and purity of life gave weight to their influence. Of the terrible logical consequence of such belief, their Jewish training and surroundings and their sincerity would easily make them unconscious. They looked up to James as their leader: for his teaching was in less marked opposition to their views than was that of Paul. Similar men we find on a visit to Antioch in Acts 15:1; and others at Jerusalem in Acts 15:5, these latter being called believers. But their faith was evidently immature. (3) From these we must distinguish the Jews already at Antioch, who yielded, under Peter’s example, to the influence of the new comers. These last, Paul calls hypocrites. For, living as they did among uncircumcised Gentile Christians, they knew in their hearts that the distinction of meats had passed away; and yet acted as though it were still binding. They did so apparently without any definite aim, influenced merely by the Jewish Christians lately come from Jerusalem who represented, and by their presence brought to bear at Antioch, the weight of the entire Jewish nation.
The foregoing varieties of error had in common the assertion that circumcision and the prescriptions of the Law were still binding on all Christians.
Paul’s condemnatory description of these Jewish Christians at Jerusalem and Antioch was evidently designed to be a mirror in which the Christians of Galatia should see reflected the Jewish teachers who were leading them astray. By these teachers they were treated with (Galatians 4:17) the greatest attention, were led to observe (Galatians 5:10) Jewish festivals, and were strenuously urged (Galatians 6:12) to receive circumcision. But in all this the false teachers were simply endeavouring to shield themselves from persecution. That they were in danger of it, proves that they were, in some imperfect and vain sense, believers in Christ. For against mere hypocrites, like those mentioned in Galatians 2:4, no persecution would be directed. Or, certainly, they might at once have escaped it by proclaiming themselves enemies of Christ. Their danger suggests that in their heart of hearts they believed that Jesus is the Messiah and were hoping for the blessings He promised to bestow. Their religion seems to have been a compromise between desire for the favour of Christ and a wish to propitiate His enemies. The former they sought by professing themselves Christians: the latter by eager advocacy (Galatians 6:12) of Jewish prerogatives. And Paul declares (Galatians 5:11) that he might escape persecution in the same way.
That even in heathen countries the hostility of Jews was an element of danger to Christians, is proved by the ill treatment Paul received, at the instigation of Jews, at Antioch in Pisidia, at Iconium, and at Lystra, cities on the borders of Galatia. And the motive mentioned in Galatians 6:12 suggests that this hostility arose from jealousy for the peculiar spiritual prerogatives claimed by the Jews on the ground of the Old Covenant and strenuously asserted, of which prerogatives circumcision was a conspicuous badge. These prerogatives, the Gospel as preached by Paul utterly trampled under foot.
This motive also suggests that, like the Jewish Christians residing at Antioch, the disturbers in Galatia did not themselves believe their own teaching that circumcision was needful for salvation. Or possibly the convenience of the compromise gradually perverted their judgment. If so their religious belief, and in any case their action, were controlled by care for their bodily life, i.e. by the flesh. That their zeal for circumcision was not prompted by genuine loyalty to the Law, Paul proves by their converts’ practical disregard of its requirements, which they evidently tolerated.
Paul’s assertion and careful proof of his apostolic authority and of his independence of the earlier apostles can be explained only by supposing that these were denied by the disturbers in Galatia. And this we can easily understand. For the Gospel he preached repudiated utterly the compromise by which they hoped to escape persecution: and his teaching and influence could be withstood only by saying that he had himself perverted the Gospel of Christ. The distance of the other apostles made possible an insinuation that his authority as a Christian teacher was derived from them, and that he had been unfaithful to the charge thus received. The men before us were thus compelled, by the false position they had taken up, to place themselves in opposition to the greatest of the Apostles.
Paul declares in Galatians 1:7; Galatians 5:10; Galatians 5:12 that his opponents were unsettling the Christians in Galatia, and were wishing to overturn the Gospel. They even threaten to destroy (Galatians 4:10) the Churches he had planted. For, by asserting the perpetual validity of the Law they proclaimed implicitly a universal curse which shuts out all men from the blessings promised by Christ and renders the death of Christ meaningless and useless. Against such teaching and teachers Paul pronounces a tremendous and repeated Anathema; and almost hopes that they will join the ranks of heathendom. This proves that their conduct was inexcusable and sinful, that their faith in Christ did not influence their inner life, and that their profession of Christianity was an empty name. That Paul, while writing about them, never speaks to them, but only to their victims, proves that in his view their case was utterly hopeless.
All this we can best harmonise by supposing that the disturbers in Galatia had honestly accepted Jesus of Nazareth as the foretold Messiah, had believed His promise of eternal life, and had enrolled themselves among His professed followers. But the words and Spirit of Jesus had not permeated and renovated their heart and thought and life; or had ceased to do so. Consequently, as the first impulse which led them into the Church waned, they yielded to fear of the hostility of their fellow-countrymen. And the Gospel, which would have given them victory over all adverse surroundings had they accepted it without reserve, itself fell, in their conception of it, under the control of the needs of their bodily life and sank into an empty profession powerless to save. Yet the first influence did not altogether leave them. While pursuing eagerly a course subversive of the Church of Christ, they nevertheless called themselves His servants and hoped for a place in His eternal Kingdom. How vain were their hopes, the whole tenor of the Epistle afford tremendous proof. They are to us an abiding monument of the peril of permitting our belief and practice to be moulded by the needs or convenience of our present bodily life; of all compromises between the Spirit and the flesh, between truth and error.
REVIEW OF THE EPISTLE. To a Church in which it had been questioned, Paul begins his letter by asserting his independent apostolic authority; and in the greeting of an Epistle devoted chiefly to the doctrine of justification by faith he weaves the correlative historical fact of Christ’s resurrection and the doctrine that He gave Himself for the sins of men. The gratitude with which in other Epistles he turns to his readers gives place here to wonder that they are so soon turning away from God, and to a repeated curse on any who lead them astray. And, in view of the secret motive of the false guides, he declares that to make the favour of men our aim is to renounce the service of Christ.
Paul then proves from known facts that the Gospel he preaches is independent of human authority. His previous life attests the divine source of the revelation which has wrought in him so great a change. For three years after his conversion he did not so much as see the other apostles; and then saw only Peter and James, and for a short time. And when, many years later, he went up to Jerusalem and expounded to the apostles his teaching among the Gentiles, they desired no change in it, but recognised at once his independent mission. Indeed, some time afterwards, at Antioch, he publicly reproved Peter for action similar to that of the disturbers in Galatia; and supported his reproof by an appeal to the past inward experience of Peter and of himself and to his own present life in Christ.
Having thus proved by known facts that his teaching is independent of human authority, Paul now comes to defend the teaching itself. That salvation is by faith, he proves from his readers’ own experience, which he shows to be in harmony with the story of Abraham. The Law cannot save: for it pronounces a universal curse, from which Christ saved us by Himself bearing it. Had God made obedience to law a condition of the fulfilment of His promise to Abraham, He would have invalidated the promise by a subsequent addition to it; which even human morality forbids. Yet the Law must have a worthy purpose. It was designed to force us to Christ for salvation by faith. And this purpose has in us been accomplished. The Law belongs to spiritual childhood, which is a state of bondage. But now the set time has come, and we are free: for in our hearts the Spirit proclaims that we are sons of God. Yet, by seeking salvation in sacred seasons, the Galatian Christians are turning back to the bondage of childhood.
This complete argument is followed by a direct appeal recalling the joyous founding of the Galatian Churches and revealing the unworthy motive of the earnestness of the disturbers. This again is followed by an historical application of the main argument. Since the Law brings bondage, they who look to it for salvation are in the position of the children of Hagar. And the expulsion of Hagar and her son from the family of Abraham proclaims the exclusion of these their modern representatives from the blessings promised to Abraham’s seed.
The entire foregoing argument, Paul then brings to bear on the matter of circumcision by asserting that to receive the rite is to accept obligation to keep the whole Law. With such obligation he contrasts his own religious life; and concludes the matter of circumcision by sundry appeals.
The doctrine of justification by faith apart from works renders absolutely needful an exposition of Christian morals: and this exposition Paul throws into a form specially suitable to the case of his readers. To advocates of the abiding validity of the Mosaic Law, who yet needed to be warned against mutual conflict, he points out the sum of that Law, viz. love to our neighbour: and, in the presence of men whose teaching was moulded by care for the flesh, he proclaims the ceaseless antagonism of the flesh and the Spirit. These two great principles of Christian morality he applies to sundry details.
A mark of his earnestness Paul gives by recurring, at the end of the Epistle, in his own hand-writing, to its chief matter; and reveals the real and specific motive of these eager advocates of circumcision. This evokes an exultant boast in that cross of Christ which his opponents practically trampled under foot.
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Beet, Joseph. "Commentary on Galatians 6". Joseph Beet's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25