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Bear One Another’s Burdens
Galatians 6:1. To emphasize again his connection with the believers of Galatia and their connection to each other, Paul begins his closing admonitions with the wonderful word “brothers”. Of course this includes the sisters. This also is a good introduction to the following verses, which show that the connection is experienced in a special way, namely in the care which should be given to each other as ‘family members’.
In the previous chapter Paul showed the contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. He clarified that the Christian life must have the character of the Holy Spirit, to expose the fruit of the Spirit. Paul demonstrated here that if a person fails to walk by the Spirit sin waits for him and then overtakes him.
Sin is lurking and strikes at the moment when the vigilance of the believer weakens even for just a second. An example of how you can go wrong is: telling a lie to save yourself out of an awkward situation, by yielding to a sexual desire, or by taking somebody else’s money if you see it laying on the table.
The law has no mercy on these offenses, only righteous retribution (Hebrews 10:28). The Galatians, who wanted to bring themselves under the law again, are encouraged to deal with such an offender as they have now been taught of the Holy Spirit.
However, they had to consider some requirements before they could deal with the offender. First such a person had to be spiritual. You may wonder: Who dares to say that of himself? I think the following points make that clear. Someone who is spiritual will have “a spirit of gentleness”. You cannot judge another person with an arrogant attitude. What a contrast to the harshness of the law!
Secondly, “looking to yourself” will give the consciousness that I am no better than the other. What a contrast to legalistic people, regarding their self-esteem. A legalistic person is unable to suffer with someone else. I must be fully aware that if God did not guard me, I would make the same mistake as – or maybe worse – than my brother did.
Concerning this case I found a very striking similarity in the book of Job. It is about the good mind we notice in Elihu, when he speaks to Job. Elihu says: “Behold, I belong to God like you; I too have been formed out of the clay. Behold, no fear of me should terrify you, nor should my pressure weigh heavily on you” (Job 33:6-Judges :). If you want to deal with someone who has fallen into sin, it is necessary that you bow down to him and to make yourself one with him and his sin. That is the meaning of eating the sin offering by the priest who had to bring a sin offering for someone else (Leviticus 6:26). That is the way to lead the other one to repentance and so to be restored by God.
Galatians 6:2. After this example of bearing a burden with specific conditions, Galatians 6:2 appeals to all believers to bear the burdens of one another. The burdens that are meant here are all sorts of afflictions and struggles that can make life so difficult. The Lord Jesus was and is the great ‘burden Bearer’. On Him we may cast all our care (1 Peter 5:7).
But God in His wisdom has invented ways for us to help each other to carry one another's burden so that we in this way will learn to appreciate and experience more of the fellowship we have as brothers and sisters. We can notice the power of a local church amongst other things by the way the believers sympathize with each other when there are troubles and try to lighten the burden.
By bearing one another's burdens, we fulfill the law of Christ. The purpose of this law is that we see that the life of the Lord Jesus was focused on the will of the Father for the sake of others. In a way Paul is saying here to the Galatians: ‘Well, if you insist on having a law, here you have one; start with this one.’ Christ never did anything for Himself.
Galatians 6:3. People who preach or keep the law are totally different. They honor themselves and think they are capable of doing everything they want, without considering the needy ones. But in fact such people are “nothing”. They are blind to seeing that no good thing dwells in the flesh (Romans 7:18). They deceive themselves by believing that they are able to do good by keeping the law. Such people always measure others by their own standards and of course they seek to appear better than others.
Galatians 6:4-Deuteronomy :. We should not compare the things we do and what we have, with what others have or do. Your own work and everything you are doing for God, including your whole attitude and all your actions, you should test in the light of God. It is from you and you do it for God. You should be happy with what you can do for Him. And at the end, before the judgment seat of Christ, you will only be responsible for your own work, your “own load”! The latter means that you have to appear before God with your own load of activities.
Galatians 6:6. The third form of bearing loads is about supporting those who teach God's Word. Please note that this concerns teachers of the Word of God and not people who have their own ideas or interpretations about the Word. This support is called “share all good things”.
Primarily this can be financial support. Are you alert to this need? It can also be a kind of sharing in spiritual blessings by which a minister of the Word is encouraged. Have you ever shared with such a minister a personal and wonderful experience you've had with the Lord, just to encourage him? Other ways of sharing involve all sorts of practical matters, such as transport and housing.
Now read Galatians 6:1-6 again.
Reflection: Where do you see opportunities to bear a burden? Does it bring you to bearing that burden?
What a Man Sows, He Will Also Reap
Galatians 6:7. Concerning these verses we can say that they deal with the government of God. The government of God has to do with someone's behavior and with the consequences of this behavior. Whatever you do, it always has a certain effect, a specific result. It does something, it leaves a trace. It does not only influence your own life but also the lives of those who are involved in your life.
It is true that the grace of God is perfect and that by the work of the Lord Jesus you are perfectly saved. Nothing or nobody can snatch you out of the hand of the Lord Jesus and out of the hand of the Father (John 10:28-Joel :), but that does not mean that it is unimportant how this is exposed in your life and how you walk in your practical life. God has connected infallible consequences with the way you live.
It’s something you can easily observe just by having your eyes open. Eliphaz has also made such an observation: “According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it" (Job 4:8; cf. Proverbs 8:22; Hosea 8:7). Think for instance of the slogan that has been used for an anti-drink campaign: 'Drink destroys more than you love'. This means that someone who has drunken too much may cause a fatal accident through his rashness. When he is sober he may confess that, and be forgiven. He will not lose his salvation, but the victim will still be dead. The awareness of this accident and the knowledge of being responsible for somebody’s death will remain with him.
This principle can be applied to many other situations. It is important to realize that you are constantly sowing, day after day, by what you think, say and do. The environment in which you sow this ‘seed’ and in which it develops, is the breeding ground. Therefore ask yourself again and again: where do I find myself, where do I go to (at work or doing other duties), where am I through my own choice, what do I read, what am I watching, what am I listening to?
“Do not be deceived” here means ‘don’t deceive yourself in this regard’. God is not mocked, you cannot fool Him! Actually it also means: don’t treat Him with disrespect. And that’s what you do if you don't consider what He has said in His Word. This might be the connection between Galatians 6:7 and the previous one, which is about the Word. Indeed the Galatians were to blame in that they listened to the Judaists with their human doctrines and therefore put aside the Word of God. Well, if you do not listen to the Word, you mock God and there will be consequences for you. I put it rather sharply, but that’s what Paul does here as well.
Galatians 6:8. The choice is yours. You can sow to the flesh, or you can sow to the Spirit. If you sow to your own flesh, you’re seeking your own interests, so you’re feeding selfishness. You think of your own pleasure and comfort. The inevitable consequence is that you will reap corruption. No good will be left. If you sow to the Spirit, if you’re busy in His interests, you don’t think of yourself, but of Christ and His own. This results in nothing but enjoyment of what eternal life is about and this enjoyment will be perfected when we are finally with the Lord Jesus.
Galatians 6:9. Paul means in this verse that your life will not be made comfortable. In fact, we often have to wait for a long time before we see the results of sowing to the Spirit. Then suddenly the thought may arise: ‘What really is the use of the things I do? I don’t see any result; actually it’s only getting worse and worse.’ Hence the admonition “not to lose heart in doing good”. As in the metaphor: if you cast seed into the ground today, you cannot have a rich harvest tomorrow. Continue to do well, remain true in your daily activities, for the harvest is surely coming. Do well generously and you will have a rich harvest.
Do not weaken, just hold on. Do not be disheartened by the setbacks and the pain you experience when your good work is rewarded with evil. God will reward you at the right time.
Galatians 6:10. Look at all those people around you. They need someone like you, someone who knows the grace of the Lord Jesus. Sow His grace around you. The people in the world need that grace to be saved; Christians who are captured by legalism need that grace to be freed; Christians who have difficulties in other ways, need that grace to be encouraged.
So you have a great area to sow: in all the people you encounter every day. The field in which you sow – in other words, your target group – consists of all people. When there is an opportunity, you can do them good. By that you also show Who God is. God’s target group, speaking reverently, also consists of all people (cf. Matthew 5:45; Titus 2:11).
Amid all these people is living a particular target group called “the household of the faith”. You ought to do them good in a special way. 1 Timothy 4 says God also acts in that way (1 Timothy 4:10). The ‘household of faith’ includes all of God's children, all members of the church, no matter what group or what denomination they have joined.
Galatians 6:11. With these admonitions Paul seems to have reached the end of his letter. Although the letter is relatively short, he points out that it is a long letter. He had written it completely by himself. Usually he dictated his letters and added a salutation with his own hand (1 Corinthians 16:21). This letter is an exception. Because of the gravity of the error for which the Galatians had opened up their minds, he did the writing himself.
Now read Galatians 6:7-11 again.
Reflection: Consider your ‘sowing activities’ and ask yourself in whose interest you ‘sow’: to your own flesh or to the Spirit?
The Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Galatians 6:12. I have already mentioned that Paul in Galatians 6:11 seemed to have finished his letter. But it is as if he has reread his letter before he writes down Galatians 6:11. And because of the importance of his writing he wants to stress once again its purpose. People who only sought their own interests had infiltrated the Galatians. These people ‘sowed to the flesh’. They emphasized external things, religious statutes and customs.
To impose circumcision on the Galatian believers had no other purpose than to avoid the persecution which was associated with the cross of Christ. This is what the Galatians had to hear again right at the end. Even today you see that where a religion is preached or defended where the flesh and therefore human efforts are being respected, it is an escape from total rejection. Complying with external conditions gives man a nice appearance. In general this is a great danger, but in religion this is the greatest danger.
Whosoever preaches the cross and defends it as the only way to salvation and the only means to live as a Christian, must not expect acclamation. The cross puts an end to the wisdom of the world and the pride of the Jewish religion.
Galatians 6:13. The preachers of circumcision and the law did so only for their own honor and glory. They could show off with that. The same is done in our day when people boast in the number of persons they have baptized or in those who are convinced by their clever arguments about how to serve God in the best way, while in the meantime the cross is passed by. But, Paul says, do not be fooled. These people, who so strongly insist on the importance of the ordinances, don’t keep them themselves. They are hypocrites.
Galatians 6:14. Paul contrasts this with his own attitude and he does so in the light of the meaning of the cross. To him the cross is the place where all became clear. There he sees the true character of the world and there he sees all the perfections of the Lord Jesus; there he sees Who God is and there he sees what man is. Whoever keeps the law glories in the nature of man and what he is able to do. Whoever glories in the cross doesn’t glory in anything of himself. Isn’t the cross indeed the place where the full judgment of God is executed on the evil, sinful nature of man?
It is “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Here Paul is using the full name of his and their (“our”) Savior. This makes the cross, the place of shame, rejection and condemnation, at the same time the place where all the glory of God has become visible through faith.
The cross is the radical separation between the world and the believer. There I am judged in Christ, and so to the world I am finished, just as Christ is finished to the world. The world, and especially the religious world, nailed Christ on the cross. Away with him! That's the way the world is looking at me.
It is also true vice-versa. The world also is judged for me. By the cross the full malice and wickedness of the world is made visible. As a believer I don’t want to deal with the world anymore. The world has nothing desirable for the heart of someone who looks at the cross and accepts it as Paul presents it here. Any compromise with the world is like a slap in the face of God and Christ, and makes the cross a ridiculous thing.
I sincerely hope that you share with me the desire to see more of the meaning of the cross of Christ and also the desire to live consistently in accordance with that meaning.
Galatians 6:15. All outward ordinances have no value to God at all. What matters is whether someone is “a new creation”. As a new creation, you will be able to see things as God sees them.
Galatians 6:16. Do you want a rule to live by? You can find it here. This rule is: Live the new life you have received at your conversion. In that new life Christ is the Object on Whom you focus and the Holy Spirit is the power therein. In that way you'll find “peace and mercy”. You will not find those things if you want to keep the law. If you want to keep the law you'll only receive condemnation, damnation and death.
Paul mentions “the Israel of God” separately. These are the believers in Israel who during this time, the time of grace, have accepted the Lord Jesus as Savior. So they belong to the church. In Romans 11 Paul says of this same group of believers: “In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to [God’s] gracious choice” (Romans 11:5).
Since the rejection of the Lord Jesus, Israel as a nation is not recognized by God as His people. When the church is caught up to be with the Lord, God will then continue His purpose with His people here on earth and fulfill all the promises he has made to this nation. All this you can learn from Romans 9-11. The few of His earthly people who have become believers in this time, the time of grace, are recognized by God as His Israel without making them a people separated from the church.
Galatians 6:17. Paul hopes that the Galatians will no longer bother him. They had troubled him by their wandering away from the gospel he had preached to them. In this letter he fervently defended this gospel accompanied by a great inner struggle. That should be sufficient.
The scars he bore due to scourges and by being stoned (see 2 Corinthians 11:23-Lamentations : for this and more hardships), he calls “the brand-marks of Jesus”. He calls his Master as an exception ‘Jesus’ without further addition. This points to the life of the Lord Jesus on earth: a life of humiliation, shame and pain which He suffered (Isaiah 52:14). Paul desired to be as much as possible like his Master (Philippians 3:10). That was his honor!
Galatians 6:18. Then Paul ends his letter as he had begun: short and cool. There are no greetings as in other letters, although many brothers were with him (Galatians 1:2). His own greeting is missing. He only wishes that the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” would be with their “spirit”, as only grace and nothing else can be the counterbalance to the influence of legalistic thinking. That's what I need; that's what you need. That grace must thoroughly affect the heart, the thinking and the spirit of the Christian.
Here Paul again writes “Lord Jesus Christ”, preceded by “our”. This ‘our’ indicates the bond that existed between Paul and the Galatians. That bond is also beautifully expressed in the word “brothers”, which also shows how deeply he loved them. He thus expresses that he had written to them out of the deep consciousness of the relationship he had with his children in faith. Should there be, after all he had written, still some doubt about how he saw them, then that doubt was now suppressed.
The last word of the letter is “amen”. Of all the letters Paul wrote, only the letter to the Romans ends in the same way. That is another indication of how the two letters are connected; they both have the same significant issues, namely the presentation and the defense of the gospel. With this ‘amen’, which means ‘so it is’, Paul as it were seals the letter. What it says remains so!
I would like to conclude this commentary with the words of another believer (GC Willis) and I add this with the prayer that this letter will affect your life and mine with the purpose that God the Holy Spirit had led him to write:
‘It is impossible to say how hard it must have been for Paul to write this letter, but what a treasure we have in it for today. At that time it certainly was the work of the devil to send those teachers of the law to Galatia. But there was a higher hand and a heart of love which led everything.
Because of the attack of the enemy, God forged for us a sword of the finest steel by which all the attacks of the enemy in the past twenty centuries were resisted. And it's still as fresh and powerful as it has been all these centuries. May God Himself exercise our hands to battle with it, and our fingers to fight with it (Psalms 144:1) to His glory. Amen.’
Now read Galatians 6:12-18 again.
Reflection: Read the letter again and write down how many times you read the words ‘cross’ or ‘crucified’. Consider in what context those words occur and what that means for the practice of your life of faith.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Galatians 6". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany