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CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Galatians 6:1. Overtaken in a fault.—Be caught red-handed in any transgression, the result of some sudden and overpowering gust of evil impulse. Restore such an one.—The same word used of a dislocated limb reduced to its place. Such is the tenderness with which we should treat a fallen member in restoring him to a better state. In the spirit of meekness.—Meekness is that temper of spirit towards God whereby we accept His dealings without disputing; then towards men whereby we endure meekly their provocations, and do not withdraw ourselves from the burdens which their sins impose upon us (Trench).
Galatians 6:2. Bear ye one another’s burdens.—The word is “weights,” something exceeding the strength of those under them. “One another’s” is strongly emphatic. It is a powerful stroke, as with an axe in the hand of a giant, at censoriousness or vainglorious egotism. We are not to think of self, but of one another. To bear the burden of an erring brother is truly Christ-like. And so fulfil the law of Christ.—If you must needs observe a law, let it be the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:3. He deceiveth himself.—He is misled by the vapours of his own vanity, he is self-deceived.
Galatians 6:4. Rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.—In that his own work stands the test after severe examination, and not that he is superior to another.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Galatians 6:1-48.6.5
Mutual Sympathy in Burden-bearing.
I. That sympathy towards the erring is a test of spiritual-mindedness.—
1. Shown in the tenderness with which the erring should be treated. “If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness” (Galatians 6:1). Worldly and self-seeking men are often severe on a neighbour’s fault. They are more likely to aggravate than heal the wound, to push the weak man down when he tries to rise than to help him to his feet. The spiritual, moved by genuine compassion, should regard it as their duty to set right a lapsed brother, to bring him back as soon and safely as may be to the fold of Christ. To reprove without pride or acrimony, to stoop to the fallen without the air of condescension, requires the spirit of meekness in a singular degree.
2. Reflecting that the most virtuous may some day be in need of similar consideration.—“Considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). The disaster befalling one reveals the common peril; it is a signal for every member of the Church to take heed to himself. The scrutiny which it calls for belongs to each man’s private conscience. The faithfulness and integrity required in those who approach the wrong-doer with a view to his recovery must be chastened by personal solicitude. The fall of a Christian brother should be in any case the occasion of heart-searching and profound humiliation. Feelings of indifference towards him, much more of contempt, will prove the prelude of a worse overthrow for ourselves.
II. That sympathy in burden-bearing is in harmony with the highest law.—“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). As much as to say, If ye will bear burdens, bear one another’s burden; if ye will observe law, observe the highest law—the law of love. There is nothing more Christ-like than to bear the burden of a brother’s trespass. Christ bore burdens which to us would have been intolerable and overwhelming. The heaviest burden becomes supportable when shared with loving sympathy. Kindness towards the needy and helpless is work done to Christ. There is a poetic legend among the Anglian kings that Count Fulc the Good, journeying along Loire-side towards Tours, saw, just as the towers of St. Martin’s rose before him in the distance, a leper full of sores who put by his offer of alms and desired to be borne to the sacred city. Amidst the jibes of his courtiers, the good count lifted him in his arms and carried him along bank and bridge. As they entered the town the leper vanished from their sight, and men told how Fulc had borne an angel unawares! Mutual burden-bearing is the practical proof of the unity and solidarity of the Christian brotherhood.
III. That no man can afford to be independent of human sympathy.—
1. Fancied superiority to sympathy is self-deception. “If a man think himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself” (Galatians 6:3). Others will see how little his affected eminence is worth. Some will humour his vanity, many will ridicule or pity it, few will be deceived by it. Real knowledge is humble; it knows its nothingness. Socrates, when the oracle pronounced him the wisest man in Greece, at last discovered that the response was right, inasmuch as he alone was aware that he knew nothing, while other men were confident of their knowledge. It is in humility and dependence, in self-forgetting, that true wisdom begins. Who are we, although the most refined or highest in place, that we should despise plain, uncultured members of the Church, those who bear life’s heavier burdens and amongst whom our Saviour spent His days on earth, and treat them as unfit for our company, unworthy of fellowship with us in Christ? (Findlay). The most exalted and gifted is never lifted above the need of fellow-sympathy.
2. A searching examination into our conduct will reveal how little cause there is for boasting a fancied superiority.—“But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another” (Galatians 6:4). As if the apostle said: “Let each man try his own work. Judge yourselves instead of judging one another. Mind your own duty rather than your neighbours’ faults. Do not think of your worth or talents in comparison with theirs, but see to it that your work is right.” The question for each of us is not, What do others fail to do? but, What am I myself really doing? What will my life’s work amount to when measured by that which God expects from me? The petty comparisons which feed our vanity and our class-prejudices are of no avail at the bar of God. If we study our brother’s work, it should be with a view of enabling him to do it better, or to learn to improve our own by his example; not in order to find excuses for ourselves in his shortcomings. If our work abide the test, we shall have glorying in ourselves alone, not in regard to our neighbour. Not his flaws and failures, but my own honest work, will be the ground of my satisfaction (Ibid.).
IV. That individual responsibility is universal.—“For every man shall bear his own burden [load]” (Galatians 6:5). No man can rid himself of his life-load; he must carry it up to the judgment-seat of Christ, where he will get his final discharge. Daniel Webster was present one day at a dinner-party given at Astor House by some New York friends, and in order to draw him out one of the company put to him the following question, “Will you please tell us, Mr. Webster, what was the most important thought that ever occupied your mind?” Mr. Webster merely raised his head, and passing his hand slowly over his forehead, said, “Is there any one here who doesn’t know me?” “No, sir,” was the reply; “we all know you, and are your friends.” “Then,” said he, looking over the table, “the most important thought that ever occupied my mind was that of my individual responsibility to God”; and he spoke on the subject for twenty minutes. The higher sense we have of our own responsibility the more considerate we are in judging others and the more we sympathise with them in their struggles and trials. Æsop says a man carries two bags over his shoulder, the one with his own sins hanging behind, that with his neighbour’s sins in front.
1. Sympathy is a Christ-like grace.
2. Sympathy for the erring does not tolerate wrong.
3. Practical help is the test of genuine sympathy.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Galatians 6:1. The Sins of Others.
I. The follies and misconduct of others are the choice subjects of conversation in every stage of society; and if we take slander out of these conversations, we rob them of their keenest fascination. I have felt it, that fearful joy which the discovery of others’ faults produces; and then I found nothing at all extravagant in the strongest expressions by which the Scriptures depict the depth of our fall and the depravity of our heart.
II. One of our brethren has lapsed: but you who condemn him, have you never erred? Do you know his history? Did he know what you know yourself? The fall of a brother should call forth a painful self-examination and a sincere humiliation before God.
III. Real and profound compassion should be felt for the brother whom sin has overtaken. But sympathy alone will not suffice. There is a sympathy which is mere weakness. Our mission lays upon us the duty of restoration. This is a delicate and sublime work, for it is the work of God, but the work of God destined to be accomplished by man. Do the work of Jesus Christ in the spirit of Jesus Christ. You must have for your fallen brethren a love without weakness and a holiness without pride. We cannot raise them en masse, and by I know not what a collective action which would exempt us from individual love and sacrifice. All will be of no avail unless each of us, in the post where God has placed him, acts upon those around him, and brings them all individually under that influence of love which nothing can either equal or replace. Have you never asked yourself with terror if you have not lost some soul? Do you know if, among all those unfortunate beings whom God will cast from His presence at the last day, more than one will not sorrowfully turn towards you and say, “It is thou, it is thou that hast lost me”?—Eugene Bersier.
Galatians 6:1-48.6.2. Christian Reformation.
I. A thief is the man who uses, in order to keep up appearances, that which does not justly belong to him, whether that appearance be kept up by actually robbing his neighbour’s pocket, or by delaying the payment of his just debts, or by stinting God and man of their dues in any way. Such a one has, for keeping up appearances, every advantage up to a certain point, and that point is the moment of detection. After that, all is changed. The detected thief is the most miserable of men. Two ways only are open to him by which he can endure life or carry on hope. One of these is to declare war against society, and become an open instead of a secret offender; the other is to begin anew, and strive to build up a fresh reputation under more favourable auspices, it may be by shrewder and deeper deceit, or it may be in the way of genuine repentance and amendment. It is hard to say whether of these two is the more difficult or hopeless.
II. Were we all true men, safe in our own consciences, fearless of detection in any point ourselves, we should be ever ready to help up an erring brother or sister; but it is just because we are afraid of our own weak and unsound points that we are so reluctant ever to let a tarnished character again brighten itself. It is hardly possible to over-estimate the vast conspiracy which is arranged against the delinquent’s effort to be reinstated in the favour of his fellow-men.
III. It would be by no means uninstructive to inquire how far these feelings have influenced us in our views and practice with regard to the punishment of crime. The last thing we believe in is reformation. You may view this as a judicial consequence of guilt. Terrible as may be the fears of a conscience dreading detection, far more difficulty, far more anguish, far bitterer self-reproach, is in store for the penitent struggling to regain peace and the fair name which he has lost. He carries the past evermore, as it were, branded on his brow, for men to see and avoid.
IV. While we rejoice and are grateful to God for His mercy to us, we should at the same time tremble at our own unworthiness, and ever bear in mind our personal liability to fall into sin. In such a spirit should we set about the blessed work of restoration, ever looking on the fallen as our brethren, going to meet them across the gulf which human Pharisaism has placed between them and us, the undetected; as common children of that God whose grace is able to raise them up again, bearing their burdens instead of disclaiming them and letting them sink under their weight, and so fulfilling the law of Christ.—Dean Alford.
The Restoration of the Erring.
I. The Christian view of other men’s sins.—
1. The apostle looks upon sin as if it might be sometimes the result of a surprise.
2. As that which has left a burden on the erring spirit.
(1) One burden laid on fault is that chain of entanglement which seems to drag down to fresh sins.
(2) The burden of the heart weighing on itself.
(3) The burden of a secret, leading a man to tell the tale of his crimes as under the personality of another, as in the old fable of him who breathed his weighty secret to the reeds; to get relief in profuse and general acknowledgment of guilt; evidenced in the commonness of the longing for confession.
(4) The burden of an intuitive consciousness of the hidden sins of others’ hearts.
II. The Christian power of restoration.—
1. Restoration is possible.
2. By sympathy.
3. By forgiveness.
4. In the spirit of meekness.
5. The motive urging to attempt restoration.—“Considering thyself,” etc.—F. W. Robertson.
1. A man must so reprove his brother as that it may be most for the advancement of God’s glory, best for winning him to God, and least to the defaming of him abroad. He must pray that God would guide his tongue and move the other’s heart. We may not traduce him to others, either before or after our reproof.
2. Every reproof must be grounded on a certainty of knowledge of the fault committed.
3. It is very requisite the reprover be not tainted with the like fault he reproves in another.
4. The vinegar of sharp reprehension must be allayed and tempered with the oil of gentle exhortation. The word “restore” signifies to set a bone that is broken. We are to deal with a man who has fallen and by his fall disjoined some member of the new man as the surgeon does with an arm or leg that is broken or out of joint—handle it tenderly and gently, so as to cause least pain.
5. Every reproof must be fitted to the quality and condition of him we reprove and to the nature of the offence.
6. Must be administered in fit time when we may do the most good.
7. Secret sins known to thee or to a few must be reproved secretly.
8. We must be careful to observe the order set down by our Saviour (Matthew 18:15).—Perkins.
Galatians 6:2; Galatians 6:5. Our Twofold Burdens.—
1. The burden which every man must bear for himself is the burden of his own sins, and from this burden no man can relieve him.
2. If a man be overtaken in a fault, we are to bear his burden by trying to restore him.
3. We are to do this in the spirit of meekness, bending patiently under the burden which his fault may cast on us. This spirit toward those who commit faults is wholly at variance with the natural man’s way of acting, speaking, and thinking. We are to love our friends in spite of their faults, to treat them kindly, cheerfully, graciously, in spite of the pain they may give us.
4. Our Saviour has given us an example of what we should wish and strive to be and do. The law of Christ is the law of love.—J. C. Hare.
Galatians 6:2. Bear One Another’s Burdens.—The law of Christ was lovingkindness. His business was benevolence. If we would resemble Him,—
1. We must raise up the fallen.—This was hardly ever attempted till Christ set the pattern. People went wrong, and the world let them go; they broke the laws, and the magistrate punished; they became a scandal, and society cast them out—out of the synagogue, out of the city, out of the world. But with a moral tone infinitely higher Christ taught a more excellent way.
2. We must bear the infirmities of the weak.—Very tiresome is a continual touchiness in a neighbour, or the perpetual recurrence of the same faults in a pupil or child. But if by self-restraint and right treatment God should enable you to cure those faults, from how much shame and sorrow do you rescue them, from how much suffering yourself.
3. We must bear one another’s trials.—With one is the burden of poverty; with another it is pain or failing strength, the extinction of a great hope, or the loss of some precious faculty. A little thing will sometimes ease the pressure. In a country road you have seen the weary beast with foaming flank straining onward with the overladen cart and ready to give in, when the kindly waggoner called a halt, and propping up the shaft with a slim rod or stake from the hedgerow, he patted and praised the willing creature, till after a little rest they were ready to resume the rough track together. Many a time a small prop is quite sufficient.
4. By thus bearing others’ burdens you will lighten your own.—Rogers the poet has preserved a story told him by a Piedmontese nobleman. “I was weary of life, and after a melancholy day was hurrying along the street to the river, when I felt a sudden check. I turned, and beheld a little boy who had caught the skirt of my cloak in his anxiety to solicit my notice. His look and manner were irresistible. Not less so was the lesson I learnt. ‘There are six of us, and we are dying for want of food.’ ‘Why should I not,’ said I to myself, ‘relieve this wretched family? I have the means, and it will not delay me many minutes.’ The scene of misery he conducted me to I cannot describe. I threw them my purse, and their burst of gratitude overcame me. It filled my eyes; it went as a cordial to my heart. ‘I will call again to-morrow,’ I cried. Fool that I was to think of leaving a world where such pleasure was to be had, and so cheaply.” There is many a load which only grows less by giving a lift to another. A dim gospel makes a cold Christian; a distant Saviour makes a halting, hesitating disciple.—Dr. James Hamilton.
Galatians 6:2. Christian Generosity.
I. The duty enjoined.—
1. It may apply to a weight of labour or bodily toil.
2. To a weight of personal affliction.
3. To a weight of providential losses and embarrassments.
4. To a weight of guilt.
5. Of temptation.
6. Of infirmities.
II. The enforcing motive.—
1. The apostle’s requirement is worthy of the character of Christ, as it is a law of equity.
2. It is congenial with the Spirit of Christ.
3. It is agreeable to the example of Christ.
4. It is deducible from the precepts of Christ.
5. It has the approbation of Christ.—Sketches.
Bearing One Another’s Burdens.—The metaphor is taken from travellers who used to ease one another by carrying one another’s burdens, wholly or in part, so that they may more cheerfully and speedily go on in their journey. As in architecture all stones are not fit to be laid in every place of the building, but some below and others above the wall, so that the whole building may be firm and compact in itself; so in the Church those who are strong must support the weak. The Italians have a proverb—Hard with hard never makes a good wall, by which is signified that stones cobbled up one upon another without mortar to combine them make but a tottering wall that may be easily shaken; but if there be mortar betwixt them yielding to the hardness of the stones, it makes the whole like a solid continued body, strong and stable, able to endure the shock of the ram or the shot of the cannon. So that society, where all are as stiff as stones which will not yield a hair one to another, cannot be firm and durable. But where men are of a yielding nature society is compact, because one bears the infirmities of another. Therefore the strong are to support the weak, and the weak the strong; as in the arch of a building one stone bears mutually, though not equally, the burden of the rest; or as harts swimming over a great water do ease one another in laying their heads one upon the back of another—the foremost, having none to support him, changing his place and resting his head upon the hindermost. Thus in God’s providence Luther and Melancthon were happily joined together. Melancthon tempered the heat and zeal of Luther with his mildness, being as oil to his vinegar; and Luther, on the other side, did warm his coldness, being as fire to his frozenness.—Ralph Cudworth.
Association (A Benefit Club Sermon).—
1. This plan of bearing one another’s burdens is not only good in benefit clubs—it is good in families, in parishes, in nations, in the Church of God. What is there bearing on this matter of prudence that makes one of the greatest differences between a man and a brute beast? Many beasts have forethought: the sleep-mouse hoards up acorns against the winter, the fox will hide the game he cannot eat. The difference between man and beast is, that the beast has forethought only for himself, but the man has forethought for others also.
2. Just the same with nations. If the king and nobles give their whole minds to making good laws, and seeing justice done to all, and workmen fairly paid, and if the poor in their turn are loyal and ready to fight and work for their king and their nobles, then will not that country be a happy and a great country?
3. Just the same way with Christ’s Church, the company of true Christian men. If the people love and help each other, and obey their ministers and pray for them, and if the ministers labour earnestly after the souls and bodies of their people, and Christ in heaven helps both minister and people with His Spirit and His providence and protection, if all in the whole Church bear each other’s burdens, then Christ’s Church will stand, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.—Charles Kingsley.
I. Different kinds of burdens.—
1. Those that are necessary.
2. Those that are superfluous.
3. Those that are imaginary.
II. What shall we do with them?—
1. Reduce their number to the limits of necessity.
2. Some of these we are expected to carry ourselves.
3. Some we may expect our friends to help us to carry.
4. We may take them all to the Lord that He may either remove them or sustain us under them.
1. With grace burdens are removed or lightened.
2. In what way can we best help others with their burdens? “Thou lightenest thy load by lightening his.”
3. Let our burdens be reduced to light running order.—Homiletic Monthly.
Practical Christian Sympathy.
I. Consider the burdens you can bear for others.—All have to bear burdens. Some man can only bear for himself. Others he can be helped to bear, such as the burden of carnal tendency, persecution, anxiety over loved ones, affliction that is not punishment.
II. Consider how we may bear the burdens of others.—
1. We can bear them on our hearts in prayer.
2. We can lighten the burden by friendly help.
3. We can by the strength of our sympathies come under the burdens of others.
III. Bearing the burdens of others is the chief way by which we can fulfil the law of Christ.—Nothing will give us such a resemblance to Him. He lived solely for others. He came voluntarily under the burden of man’s miseries, sacrificing Himself for the race.
IV. Consider the importance of obeying this injunction.—
1. For our own sakes.
2. For the good of others.
3. For the prosperity of the Church.—The Lay Preacher.
Galatians 6:5. Burden-bearing.
I. There is the burden of personal responsibility.—This comes out in the formation of character.
II. There is the burden of toil.—Among the steep precipitous mountains of Thibet the traveller meets long processions of hungry, ill-clad Chinamen, carrying enormous loads of tea. There they go, climb, climbing day after day up the rough sides of the mountains, each with his great burden on his back, eyes fixed on the ground, all silent, stepping slowly, and leaning on great iron-pointed sticks, till the leader of the gang gives the signal for a halt, and, after standing a few minutes, the heavy load again falls on the back and head, the body is again bent towards the ground, and the caravan is once more in motion. You do not wonder that, with a task so monotonous, these poor drudges should acquire a dreary, stupid look, little better than beasts of burden; and you feel sorry for those in whose lives there is a large amount of the like irksome and exhausting routine. Yet there are many who, in order to earn their daily bread, must go through a similar task.
III. There is the burden of sorrow.—Sorrow dwells beneath a king’s robes as much as beneath a peasant’s cloak; the star of the noble, the warrior’s corslet, the courtier’s silken vesture, cannot shut it out. That rural home is such a picture of peace we cannot believe that care or tears are there. That noble castle amidst ancient trees is surely lifted up in its calm grandeur above sighs and sadness. Alas! it is not so. Man is the tenant of both, and wherever man dwells sorrow is sure to be with him.
IV. There is one burden which it is wrong to bear.—It is a sin and a shame to you if you are still plodding along under the burden of unpardoned transgression. The load of guilt, the feeling that our sin is too great for the blood of Christ to expiate, or the grace of God to pardon—this burden it is wrong to bear.—Dr. James Hamilton.
Bearing our Burdens Alone.
I. The loneliness of each one of us.—One of the tendencies of these bustling times is to make us forget that we are single beings, detached souls. Each great star flung out like an atom of gold dust into space may seem lost amid the hundred of millions of mightier worlds that surround; and yet no; it rolls on, grave in itself, careering in its own orbit, while its sister-stars sweep round on every side. We stand cut off from one another. We are to stave up side by side our own destiny, we are to be alone with our burdens, not lost in the forest of human lives.
II. Look at some of the forms of this burden.—
1. There is the burden of being itself.
2. The burden of duty.
3. The burden of imperfection and sin.
4. The burden of sorrow.
5. The burden of dying alone.
6. If a man is lost, he is lost alone; if saved, he is saved alone.—The Lay Preacher.
Every Man has his Own Burden.
I. No man can pay a ransom for his brother, or redeem his soul from death, or satisfy the justice of God for his sin, seeing that every man by the tenor of the law is to bear his own burden, and by the gospel none can be our surety but Christ.
II. We see the nature of sin that is a burden to the soul.—It is heavier than the gravel of the earth and the sand of the sea.
III. We are not to wonder that sin being so heavy a burden should be made so light a matter by carnal men, for it is a spiritual burden.
IV. The more a man fears the burden of his sins the greater measure of grace and spiritual life he has, and the less he feels it the more is he to suspect himself.
V. The greatest part of the world are dead in their sins in that they have no sense of feeling of this heavy burden.
VI. We are to take heed of every sin, for there is no sin so small but hath its weight.—Many small sins will as easily condemn as a few great. Like as sands, though small in quantity, yet being many in number, will as soon sink the ship as if it were laden with the greatest burden.
VII. Feeling the weight and burden of our sins, we are to labour to be disburdened; and this is done by repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.—Perkins.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Galatians 6:6. Communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.—Go shares with him in the good things of this life. While each bears his own burden he must think of others, especially in ministering out of his earthly goods to the wants of his spiritual teacher (see 2 Corinthians 11:7; 2 Corinthians 11:11; Philippians 4:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 1 Timothy 5:17-54.5.18).
Galatians 6:7. God is not mocked.—The verb means to sneer with the nostrils drawn up in contempt. Excuses for illiberality may seem valid before men, but are not so before God.
Galatians 6:8. He that soweth to his flesh.—Unto his own flesh, which is devoted to selfishness. Shall reap corruption.—Destruction, which is not an arbitrary punishment of fleshly-mindedness, but is its natural fruit; the corrupt flesh producing corruption, which is another word for destruction. Corruption is the fault, and corruption the punishment.
Galatians 6:9. Let us not be weary: we shall reap, if we faint not.—“Weary” refers to the will; “faint” to relaxation of the powers. No one should faint, as in an earthly harvest sometimes happens.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Galatians 6:6-48.6.10
Moral Sowing and Reaping.
I. Beneficence by the taught towards the teacher is sowing good seed.—“Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things” (Galatians 6:6). The good things referred to, though not confined to temporal good, do certainly mean that. While every man must bear his own burden, he must also help to bear the burden of his brother. Especially must the taught go shares with his spiritual teacher in all things necessary. But beneficence shown towards the minister in temporalities is the least, and with many the easiest, part of the duty. Teacher and taught should mutually co-operate with each other in Christian work, and share with each other in spiritual blessings. The true minister of the gospel is more concerned in eliciting the co-operation and sympathy of the members of his Church than in securing their temporal support. If he faithfully ministers to them in spiritual things, they should be eager to minister unto him of their worldly substance, and to aid him in promoting the work of God. Every good deed, done in the spirit of love and self-sacrifice, is sowing good seed.
II. By the operation of unchanging divine law the reaping will correspond to the kind of seed sown and the nature of the soil into which it is cast.—“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh,” etc. (Galatians 6:7-48.6.8). Men may wrong each other, but they cannot cheat God. To expect God to sow His bounties upon them, and not to let Him reap their gratitude and service, is mockery. But it is not God they deceive; they deceive themselves. For at last every one shall reap as he sows. The use made of our seed-time determines exactly, and with a moral certainty greater even than that which rules in the natural field, what kind of fruitage our immortality will render. Eternity for us will be the multiplied, consummate outcome of the good or evil of the present life. Hell is just sin ripe—rotten ripe. Heaven is the fruitage of righteousness. “He that soweth to his own flesh reaps corruption”—the moral decay and dissolution of the man’s being. This is the natural retributive effect of his carnality. The selfish man gravitates downward into the sensual man; the sensual man downward into the bottomless pit. “He that soweth to the Spirit reaps life everlasting.” The sequence is inevitable. Like breeds its like. Life springs of life, and death eternal is the culmination of the soul’s present death to God and goodness. The future glory of the saints is at once a divine reward and a necessary development of their present faithfulness (Findlay, passim).
III. Sowing the seed of good deeds should be prosecuted with unwearied perseverance.—
1. Because the harvest is sure to follow. “Let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). Here is encouragement for the wearied, baffled worker. We have all our moments of despondency and disappointment, and are apt to imagine our labours are futile and all our painstaking useless. Not so. We are confounding the harvest with the seed-time. “In due season”—in God’s time, which is the best time—“we shall reap, if we faint not.” Our heavenly harvest lies in every earnest and faithful deed, as the oak with its centuries of growth and all its summer glory sleeps in the acorn-cup, as the golden harvest slumbers in the seeds under their covering of wintry snow.
2. Because the opportunity of doing good is ever present.—“As we have opportunity let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). The whole of life is our opportunity, and every day brings its special work. Opportunity is never to seek; it is ever present. There is not a moment without a duty. While we are looking for a more convenient opportunity we lose the one that is nearest to us. As members of the household of faith there is ever work enough to do—work that fits us to do good on a wider scale—“unto all men.” True zeal for the Church broadens rather than narrows our charities. Household affection is the nursery, not the rival, of love to our fatherland and to humanity.
1. Our present life is the seed-time of an eternal harvest.
2. The quality of the future harvest depends entirely on the present sowing.
3. God Himself is the Lord of the moral harvest.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Galatians 6:6. Pastors and People.
I. It is the duty of the people to give their pastors not only countenance but maintenance.
II. It is the law of nations, and a conclusion grounded on common equity, that those who spend themselves, as a candle, to give light to others and for the common good of all, should be maintained of the common stock by all.
III. Every calling is able to maintain them that live therein, therefore we may not think that the ministry, the highest calling, should be so base or barren as that it cannot maintain them that attend thereupon.
IV. Ministers are the Lord’s soldiers, captains, and standard-bearers, and therefore are not to go a warfare at their own cost.
V. Ministers are to give themselves wholly to the building of the Church and to the fighting of the Lord’s battles. Therefore they are to have their pay that they may attend upon their calling without distraction.
VI. It is the ordinance of God that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.—Ministers should be liberally provided for, yet with moderation, that they draw not all men’s wealth into their purses. He that would live of the gospel must teach the gospel. A benefit requires a duty, and diligence in that duty.—Perkins.
1. Seeing Christ’s ministers are to bestow themselves wholly in the work of the ministry and not to be entangled with the affairs of this life, therefore the people of God, among whom they spend their strength, are bound by common equity to give them worldly maintenance, that they may be neither diverted from nor discouraged in their work of watching over souls.
2. This maintenance, though it should be moderate and such as may not through abundance occasion pride, luxury, and prodigality, yet should be liberal and creditable, such as may not only supply pinching necessities, but also that they may have wherewith to supply the necessities of the indigent, to educate their children so as they may sustain themselves and be profitable members both of Church and commonwealth.
3. The Church’s maintenance is only due unto such ministers as have abilities to preach, and are faithful and diligent labourers in the word. Those who are unfit or unwilling to preach should be removed from their charge, and not suffered to eat up the Church’s maintenance, feeding themselves and starving the souls of people committed to their charge.—Fergusson.
Galatians 6:7-48.6.9. Deceived Sowers to the Flesh.
I. The solemnity of the apostle’s warning.—He seems to intimate that such is the audacious wickedness of the human heart, that it has within it so many latent mazes of iniquity, that they might be self-deceived either as to their apprehensions of that which was right before God, or as to their own actual condition in His sight; and he tells them God is not mocked by this pretended service, that to Him all hearts are open, and that in impartial and discriminating arbitration He will render to every man according to his deeds. It is sad to be deceived in a friend, in our estimate of health, in our computation of property; but a mistake about the state of the soul—a veil folded about the heart so that it cannot see its own helplessness and peril—this is a state of which thought shudders to conceive, and to describe whose portentousness language has no words that are sufficiently appalling. There can be no peril more imminent than yours. The headlong rider through the darkness before whom the dizzy precipice yawns; the heedless traveller for whom in the bosky woodland the bandits lie in ambush, or upon whom from the jungle’s density the tiger waits to spring; the man who, gazing faintly upward, meets the cruel eye and lifted hand and flashing steel of his remorseless enemy; they of whose condition you can only poorly image, who in far dungeons and beneath the torture of a tyrant’s cruelty groan for a sight of friend or glimpse of day; all around whom perils thicken hopelessly, and to whom, with feet laden with the tidings of evil, the messengers of disaster come,—how they move your sympathy, how you shudder as you dwell upon their danger, how you would fain stir yourselves into brave efforts for their rescue or their warning! Brethren, your own danger is more nearly encompassing and is more infinitely terrible.
II. The import of the apostle’s statement.—We have largely the making or the marring of our own future—that in the thoughts we harbour, in the words we speak and in the silent deeds which, beaded on Time’s string, are told by some recording angel as the story of our lives from year to year, we shape our character and therefore our destiny for ever. There are three special sowers to the flesh—the proud, the covetous, the ungodly. They are all spiritual sins—sins of which human law takes no cognisance, and to which codes of earthly jurisprudence affix no scathing penalty. There is the greater need, therefore, that these spiritual sins should be disclosed in all their enormity and shown in their exceeding sinfulness and in their disastrous wages, in order that men may be left without excuse if they persist wilfully to believe a lie.—W. M. Punshon.
Galatians 6:7-48.6.8. The Double Harvest.
I. Our present life is a moral trial for another to come.—On till death is our seed-sowing; after death is the sure and universal harvest. On till death is our moral trial; after death is the life of judicial retribution, alike for the just and the unjust.
II. Human life has one or the other of two great characters, and will issue in one or the other of two great results.—
1. They sow to the flesh who live under the influence of their natural inclinations and desires, pleasing only themselves and despising or neglecting the holy will of God. They live to the Spirit the whole current of whose being has been supernaturally reversed under the grace of the gospel.
2. The sowers to the Spirit live. And this true and proper life of man, in its maturity and full perfection, is the great and glorious reward which, by divine appointment, shall eventually crown the labours of the sowers to the Spirit. The sowers to the flesh sow seed which brings forth death. Even now their life is death in rudiment, and in the end they must reap it in its full and eternal development. Degraded existence, miserable existence, everlastingly degraded and miserable existence.
II. We are liable to delusions with respect to these great verities.—All history and experience teem with illustrations of the spiritual spells and juggleries which men, prompted by the invisible potentate of evil, practise upon themselves, that so they may reduce to their convictions the sinfulness of sin, and may tone the booming of the great bell of Scripture menace down to the gentle whisper of an amiable reprimand.—J. D. Geden.
On the Difference between sowing to the Flesh and to the Spirit.
I. The man who soweth to his flesh.—It is to spend our lives in doing these works of the flesh—to lay out our time, our thoughts, and our care in gratifying the vain, sensual, and selfish inclinations which the evil state of the heart naturally and continually puts forth. Broken health, loathsome diseases, ruined fortunes, disappointed wishes, soured tempers, infamy, and shame are among those things which usually come from walking after the flesh.
II. The man who soweth to the Spirit.—It is to live under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit, and in every part of our conduct to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit. He enjoys even at present the fruit of his labour: inward peace and joy, and a hope full of immortality.—Edward Cooper.
The Principle of the Spiritual Harvest.
I. The principle is this, “God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”—There are two kinds of good possible to men—one enjoyed by our animal being, the other felt and appreciated by our spirits. Reap what you have sown. If you sow the wind, do not complain if your harvest is the whirlwind. If you sow to the Spirit, be content with a spiritual reward, invisible, within, more life and higher life.
II. The two branches of the application of this principle.—
1. Sowing to the flesh includes those who live in open riot.
2. Those who live in respectable worldliness.
3. Sowing to the Spirit, the harvest is life eternal.
4. The reward is not arbitrary but natural. The thing reaped is the very thing sown, multiplied a hundredfold. You have sown a seed of life, you reap life everlasting.—F. W. Robertson.
Galatians 6:7. Sowing and Reaping in their bearing on the Formation of Individual Character.—There are three plots in which every man is perpetually engaged in sowing and reaping—in the plot of his thoughts, in the plot of his words, and in the plot of his deeds. And there is a storehouse into which the harvests from these three plots are being secretly but unmistakably garnered—the storehouse of individual character. The moral condition of the man to-day is the inevitable result of his thoughts, words, and deeds; his selfhood is rich or poor according to his sowing and reaping in these respective fields.
I. Whatsoever a man sows in thought that will he also reap in the formation, tone, and tendency of his intellectual and moral nature.—
1. Vain thoughts. If we indolently sport with vain and foolish thoughts, they will inevitably produce a crop of the same kind. The mind will be garnished with flimsy and unprofitable fancies, inflated with a too conscious self-importance, and the outcome is heard in “the loud laugh that proclaims the vacant mind,” and seen in the pompous swagger of the intellectual fop (Proverbs 13:16; Psalms 94:11).
2. Proud thoughts.—The man dominated by pride is the most pitiable of objects. His pride of birth will not bear investigation into three generations, his pride of social status is snubbed in a way that leaves a wound that never heals, his pride of wealth smitten down by an unexpected turn of the ever-revolving wheel of fortune, and his pride of life withered by the passing breath of the great Destroyer. But he reaps what he sowed. He sowed the dragon’s teeth of proud and boastful thoughts, and the monster grew up and devoured him (Proverbs 16:18).
3. Thoughts of sinful pleasure.—If we allow the mind to dream of pleasures that are forbidden, the bloom of innocence is rubbed off never to be again replaced, the conscience is outraged till its voice is muffled and but feebly heard, one vile thought indulged breeds another that is viler still, and the moral atmosphere of the soul is poisoned. What he sows he reaps.
4. Good thoughts.—The mind that aims at the loftiest style of thought, declining to tolerate the presence of a debasing sentiment, that keeps in check the wild and savage brood of evil thoughts ever seeking to overrun and defile the mind, that cultivates a chaste imagination and cherishes the exalted and unselfish charity that “thinketh no evil”—reaps the result in an accession of intellectual vigour, in the creation of a nobler standard by which to judge of men and things, in the unbounded raptures of a refined and fertile imagination, and in the increase of power for doing the highest kind of work for God and humanity.
II. Whatsoever a man sows in words that shall he also reap.—
1. Bitter and rancorous words. If a man studies how much of spiteful venom he can pack into a single sentence, how he can most skilfully whet and sharpen the edge of his words so as to make the deepest wound and raise the most violent storm of irritation and ill-feeling, unalterable as the course of nature the harvest is sure to come. “Our unkind words come home to roost.” The man offensive with his tongue is the devil’s bellows with which he blows up the sparks of contention and strife, and showers of the fiery embers are sure to fall back upon himself to scathe and destroy.
2. False words.—If we deliberately and maliciously concoct a lie, and utter the same with whispered humbleness and hypocritical commiseration, as sure as there is justice in the heavens, the lie will come back with terrific recompense upon the head of the originator.
3. Kind and loving words.—If we speak in the kindest spirit of others, especially in their absence, if we stand up for a friend unjustly maligned and defend him with dignity and faithfulness, if we study to avoid words which cannot but grieve and irritate, then as we have sown so shall we reap—reap the tranquil satisfaction of conscious inoffensiveness, and, best of all, the divine approval. “Heaven in sunshine will requite the kind.”
III. Whatsoever a man sows in deeds that shall he also reap.—
1. Cruel deeds. If we take a savage delight in torturing beast or bird or insect, if we plot how we can inflict the most exquisite pain on our fellow-man, if we make sport of the anguish and distress of others which we make no effort to relieve, we shall inevitably reap the harvest—reap it in the embruting and degradation of our finer sensibilities, reap it in the tempest of rebellion and retaliation which those we outraged will launch upon us.
2. Selfish deeds.—If we live for our own selfish gratification, indifferent to the rights and woes of others; if we surrender ourselves to a covetous spirit, living poor that we may die rich—as we sow we reap. The thing we lived to enjoy ceases to gratify, and our noblest sentiments are buried amid the rubbish of our own sordidness.
3. Generous and noble deeds.—If we aim at the elevation of ourselves and others, if we seek to act on the highest level of righteousness and truth, if we are diligent, unwearied, and persistent in well-doing, then in due season we shall reap the harvest—reap it in a heightened and expansive nobility of character, in an intensified influence and enlarged capacity for doing good, and in the eternal enrichment of the divine plaudit, “Well done.”
Be not Deceived.—This phrase occurs several times as preface to warning, seeming to indicate thus that the subject of the warning is one about which we are specially liable to deception, and upon examination we find that observation justifies the presumption. We are thus guarded against any deception as to the following important practical truths:—
I. The contaminating influence of evil associations (1 Corinthians 15:33).
II. The personal responsibility of each for his own sin (James 1:16).
III. Entrance into heaven conditioned on character (1 Corinthians 6:9).
IV. Human destiny, once settled, irreversible (Galatians 6:7).—British and Foreign Evangelical Review.
Galatians 6:8. Sowing to the Spirit.
I. The natural man has no desire for immortality.—He has not been seized with the earnest and real wish for a future life; but he is entirely bound by this world in all his thoughts, aims, and wishes: he identifies life and existence altogether with this world, and life out of this world is a mere name to him. He is shut up within the walls of the flesh and within the circle of its own present aims and projects.
II. The spiritual man has a strong desire for immortality, and it is the beginning and foundation of the religious life he leads here. Every field of action becomes unimportant and insignificant compared with the simply doing good things, because in that simple exercise of goodness lies the preparation for eternity.
III. The natural and spiritual man are divided from each other by these distinctions—one has the desire for everlasting life, the other has not. The success of the one perishes with the corruptible life to which it belongs; the success of the other endures for all ages in the world to come.—J. B. Mozley.
The Law of Retribution.
I. We see the justice of God—His bounty and severity.—His bounty in recompensing men above their deserts; His severity in punishing sinners according to their deserts.
II. This doctrine, that we shall drink such as we brew, reap such as we sow, and that men have degrees of felicity or misery answerable to their works, will make us more careful to avoid sin.
III. It serves as a comfort against inequality; whereas the wicked flourish and the godly live in contempt, the time shall come when every one shall reap even as he has sown.
IV. It crosses the conceit of those who promise to themselves an impunity from sin and immunity from all the judgments of God, notwithstanding they go on in their bad practices.—Perkins.
Galatians 6:9. Against Weariness in Well-doing.—
1. There is the prevailing temper of our nature, the love of ease—horror of hard labour.
2. The reluctance and aversion are greater when the labour is enjoined by extraneous authority—the imperative will of a foreign power.
3. In the service of God there is a good deal that does not seem for ourselves.
4. There is a principle of false humility—what signifies the little I can do?
5. The complaint of deficient co-operation.
6. In the cause of God the object and effect of well-doing are much less palpable than in some other provinces of action.
7. Yet the duty expressly prescribed is an absolute thing, independently of what men can foresee of its results.
8. There is the consciousness and pleasure of pleasing God.
9. What relief has man gained by yielding to the weariness?
10. Our grave accountableness is for making a diligent, patient, persevering use of the means God has actually given us.—J. Foster.
Apathy one of our Trials.—
1. Because, as in everything else, so in our spiritual growth, we are inevitably disappointed in much of our expectations.
2. The temptation to weariness is no sign at all that the man so tempted is not a true servant of God, though this very often is the first thought that enters the mind. It is no sin to feel weary; the sin is to be weary—that is, to let the feeling have its way and rule our conduct.
3. We expect a kind of fulness of satisfaction in God’s service which we do not get nearly so soon as we fancy that we shall.
4. You are quite mistaken in your belief that former prayers and former resolutions have been in vain and have produced no fruit because no fruit is visible.
5. In due season we shall find that it has been worth while to persevere in trying to serve Christ.—Dr. Temple.
I. Contrasted with fruitless profession.—It is possible to have a clear notion of Christian truth and to talk well, and yet be idle and useless.
II. Contrasted with mistaken standards.—It is easy to do as others are doing; but are they doing well? Practice must be guided by holy precepts.
III. Contrasted with wrong motives.—Many are careful to do what is literally the right thing, but they do it with base motives. The correct motives are—love (2 Corinthians 5:14), gratitude (Psalms 116:12), compassion (2 Corinthians 5:11), desire to imitate Christ. All well-doing is humble and self-renouncing.—The Lay Preacher.
“Reap if we faint not.”—The image is agricultural.
I. Points of resemblance.—
1. The material harvest is of two kinds—weeds and golden grain.
2. The spiritual harvest is of two kinds—corruption and everlasting life.
3. A combination of agencies.
(1) For the material harvest seed, soil, and elements work with the efforts of the farmer.
(2) For the spiritual harvest the seed of the word and the power of God must co-operate with man’s agency.
4. As to difficulties.
(1) The season may be too wet, too dry, or too hot, or an army of insects may attack the growing grain.
(2) The foes of the spiritual harvest are the world, the flesh, and the devil.
II. Points of contrast.—
1. The material harvest is annual, the spiritual eternal.
2. There are seasons so unfavourable that all the efforts of the farmer prove in vain; the spiritual harvest will never fail.
3. The drouth of one year may be made good by next year’s abundance, but eternity cannot compensate for what was lost in time.
1. “Our labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
2. “In due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
3. The harvest will be glorious and eternal.—Homiletic Monthly.
Galatians 6:10. On doing Good.
I. It is our duty to do good.—This duty is enforced both by the words and example of Christ. Christianity not only requires its adherents to abstain from evil, but it demands their active service.
II. In doing good man attains to true nobility of character.—The characters in history that exert the greatest fascination over us are not those of eminent statesmen or scientists, but those who have been distinguished for their philanthropy. We see in them a moral dignity that is unique. What reversals in human estimates of character will take place when the divine standard of greatness is appealed to!
III. In doing good we find true happiness.—God has so constituted us that the exercise of our malevolent passions is productive of inward dissatisfaction, while the exercise of benevolent affections is attended with the greatest joy. There is real luxury in doing good.—Preacher’s Magazine.
The Opportunity of Beneficence.
I. What a precious thing is opportunity.—People talk about making time for this or that purpose. The time is really made for us, only we are too idle or too careless to use it for the proper end. Opportunities of usefulness are of frequent occurrence; they are wont to come and go with rapidity. They must be seized as you would lay hold of a passing friend in the street.
II. The whole of life is an opportunity.—There is such a thing as a useful life, a true life, a noble life, though all lives must needs contain a multitude of neglected opportunities. As a series of opportunities its record is woefully imperfect. As one opportunity it is not utterly unworthy of the example of Christ. Let us have a thread of right intention running through life. Let us have an active purpose of benevolence—a constant design of love. The continuous opportunity of life must be utilised, if the particular opportunities of life are to be turned to the best account.
III. The field of beneficence is very wide.—Wherever men are found it is possible for us to do them good. We touch only a few persons, but each of these is in contact with others. To do great things with great powers is easy enough; but things so done may be undone so. The glory of Christianity has always been that it does great things with small powers, or powers that men think small; and the results of its work remain. Good work done by many hands is better than the extended philanthropy of an individual; for what is this but the effort of one man to make amends for the neglect of a thousand?
IV. Though all men have a claim on our Christian benevolence some are entitled to a special share.—A man does not become a better citizen when he spurns his own family and neglects his duties at home. On the contrary, the noblest philanthropist is the most affectionate of fathers and husbands, and he who loves most widely in the world loves most intensely in his own house. So it will be with us in our Christian charity. We shall begin with those who are called by the common name and worship the common Lord, and from these we shall go on, with our energy not exhausted but rather refreshed, to the great mass of mankind.—Edward C. Lefroy.
I. We must do good with that only which is our own.—We may not cut a large and liberal shive off another man’s loaf; we may not steal from one to give to another, or deal unjustly with some that we may be merciful to others.
II. We must do good with cheerfulness and alacrity.—What more free than gift; therefore we may not play the hucksters in doing good, for that blemishes the excellency of the gift.
III. We must so do good as that we do not disable ourselves for ever doing good.—So begin to do good as that we may continue.
IV. We must do all the good we can within the compass of our calling, and hinder all the evil.
V. We must do good to all.—
1. From the grounds of love and beneficence.
2. God is good and bountiful to all.
3. Do good to others as we would they should do to us.
4. Our profession and the reward we look for require us to do this.
VI. There is no possibility of doing good to others after this life.—Perkins.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Galatians 6:11. Ye see how large a letter I have written with mine own hand.—At this point the apostle takes the pen from his amanuensis, and writes the concluding paragraph with his own hand. Owing to the weakness of his eyesight he wrote in large letters. He thus gives emphasis to the importance of the subjects discussed in the epistle.
Galatians 6:12. Lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.—They would escape the bitterness of the Jews against Christianity and the offence of the cross, by making the Mosaic law a necessary preliminary.
Galatians 6:13. For neither they themselves keep the law.—So far are they from being sincere that they arbitrarily select circumcision out of the whole law, as though observing it would stand instead of their non-observance of the rest of the law. That they may glory in your flesh.—That they may vaunt your submission to the carnal rite, and so gain credit with the Jews for proselytising.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Galatians 6:11-48.6.13
Apostolic Exposure of False Teachers.
I. The apostle gives special emphasis to his warning by concluding his epistle in his own handwriting.—“Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand” (Galatians 6:11). The apostle usually dictated his epistles to an amanuensis, except the concluding salutation, which he wrote himself by way of authentication. At this point of the epistle to the Galatians he appears to have taken the pen from the hand of the amanuensis, and with his own hand written the concluding sentences in clear, bold characters, thus giving the utmost possible emphasis and solemnity to his words. They are a postscript, or epilogue, to the epistle, rehearsing with incisive brevity the burden of all that it was in the apostle’s heart to say to these troubled and shaken Galatians. He wishes to reimpress upon his emotional readers the warnings he had already expressed against the false teachers, to assure them of his intense regard for their welfare, and to lay additional stress upon the peril of their hesitating attitude. The more apparent and imminent the danger, the louder and more earnest is the warning expressed.
II. It is shown that the policy of the false teachers was to avoid the suffering connected with the ignominy of the cross of Christ.—“They constrain you to be circumcised, only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.” (Galatians 6:12). The false teachers were really cowards, though this accusation they would be the first indignantly to resent. They wanted to mix up the old faith with the new, to entangle the new Christian converts with Mosaic observances. If they succeeded in persuading the Gentile Christians to be circumcised, they would propitiate the anger of their Israelite kindred, and dispose them to regard the new doctrine more favourably. They would, with heartless recklessness, rob the believer of all his privileges in Christ in order to make a shield for themselves against the enmity of their kinsmen. Cowards at heart, they were more afraid of persecution than eager to know and propagate the truth. If a man will be a Christian, he cannot avoid the cross; and to attempt to avoid it will not release from suffering. It is a craven fear indeed that refuses to espouse the truth because it may bring pain. “No servant of Christ,” says Augustine, “is without affliction. If you expect to be free from persecution, you have not yet so much as begun to be a Christian.”
III. The insincerity of the false teachers was apparent in their not keeping the law themselves, but in boasting of the number of their converts to its external observance.—“For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh” (Galatians 6:13). The Judaists were not only cowardly, but insincere. It was not the glory of the law they were concerned about, but their own success. If they had tried to convert the heathen, however imperfect might be their creed, they would have merited some respect; but, like some religious troublers to-day, they selected for their prey those who were already converted. They practised their wiles on the inexperience of young believers, as they expected to gather from that class the greater number of proselytes of whom to make their boast. “Their policy was dishonourable both in spirit and in aim. They were false to Christ in whom they professed to believe, and to the law which they pretended to keep. They were facing both ways, studying the safest not the truest course, anxious in truth to be friends at once with the world and Christ. Their conduct has found many imitators, in men who make godliness a way of gain, whose religious course is dictated by considerations of worldly self-interest. Business patronage, professional advancement, a tempting family alliance, the entrée into some select and envied circle—such are the things for which creeds are bartered, for which men put their souls and the souls of their children knowingly in peril.”
1. The false teacher may be the occasion of much mischief and spiritual loss.
2. He succumbs in the presence of suffering.
3. He is more anxious for public success than for the spread of the truth.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Galatians 6:12. The Odium of the Cross of Christ.
I. The history of the cross.—It is a history of sin on our part, and of suffering on the part of Christ. What a change has been produced in the moral aspect of the universe by the preaching of the cross!
II. The odium connected with the cross.—There is odium and suffering connected with the cross still; in some shape we shall suffer persecution for it. If we will lead a holy life, then suffering, persecution, reproach, hatred and ill-will, sarcasm, wit, ridicule, and obloquy will be cast upon us. It was said by one, when several were expelled from one of our universities, that “if some are expelled for having too much religion, it is high time to begin to inquire whether there are not some who have too little.” If we speak of the reproach of the cross, what should that reproach be? Not that you have too much religion, but that you have too little, and that many of you have none at all.
III. As to those who suffer persecution for the cross, it is the greatest possible honour to be laughedat, mocked, and insulted for the sake of the Saviour. If the spirit of the martyrs influenced us, there would be no shunning of persecution on account of the cross, but suffering would be welcomed with joy.—The Pulpit.
Christianity and Persecution.
I. We should suspect ourselves that our hearts are not sound, nor our practice sincere, when all men speak well of us.
II. We must not be discouraged though there be never so many that make opposition, or so mighty that raise persecution against us.
III. That we think it not strange when we find affliction or meet with persecution. The gospel and persecution go hand in hand, or follow one another inseparably.—Perkins.
Galatians 6:13. Empty Boasting—
I. When professed teachers do not practise the virtues they enforce on others.
II. When zeal for the observance of outward rites disguises the lack of personal godliness.
III. When success is sought simply to be able to boast of success.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Galatians 6:14. God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross.—The great object of shame to them, and to all carnal men, is the great object of glorying to me. By whom the world is crucified unto me.—By His cross, the worst of deaths, Christ has destroyed all kinds of death. Legal and fleshly ordinances are merely outward and elements of the world. To be crucified to the world is to be free from worldliness, and all that makes men slaves to creature fascinations.
Galatians 6:15. But a new creature.—All external distinctions are nothing. The cross is the only theme worthy of glorying in, as it brings about a new spiritual creation.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Galatians 6:14-48.6.15
Glorying in the Cross—
I. Because of the great truths it reveals.—“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14). “The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” is a comprehensive phrase signifying the whole redeeming work of Christ—the salvation effected for the race by His crucifixion and death upon the cross. The problem how God can forgive sin without any breach in His moral government, or dimming the lustre of His perfections, is solved in the cross. God is great in Sinai. The thunders precede Him, the lightnings attend Him, the earth trembles, the mountains fall in fragments. But there is a greater God than this. On Calvary, nailed to a cross, wounded, thirsting, dying, He cries, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do!” Great is the religion of power, but greater is the religion of love. Great is the religion of implacable justice, but greater is the religion of pardoning mercy. The cross was the master-theme of the apostle’s preaching and the chief and exclusive subject of his glorying.
II. Because of its contrast to effete ceremonialism.—“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision” (Galatians 6:15). To the Jew circumcision was everything. By the cross Judaism, as a means of salvation, is utterly abolished. Uncircumcision includes all Gentile heathenism. Before the cross all heathen religions must perish. The Gentile cultus was never intended to supplant Jewish customs; both are excluded as unavailing in human salvation. The devotees of form and ceremony are apt to develop into bigotry and pride; the foes of ritualism are in danger of making a religion of their opposition; and both parties indulge in recriminations that are foreign to the spirit of Christianity. “Thus I trample on the pride of Plato,” said the cynic, as he trod on the philosopher’s sumptuous carpets; and Plato justly retorted, “You do it with greater pride.” Ceremonialism is effete, and is not worth contending about. It is nothing; Christ is everything, and the cross the only subject worthy of the Christian’s boast.
III. Because of the moral change it effects.—“But a new creature”—a new creation (Galatians 6:15). In the place of a dead ceremonialism the gospel plants a new moral creation. It creates a new type of character. The faith of the cross claims to have produced not a new style of ritual, a new system of government, but new men. The Christian is the “new creature” which it begets. The cross has originated a new civilisation, and is a conspicuous symbol in the finest works of art. Ruskin, describing the artistic glories of the Church of St. Mark in Venice, says: “Here are all the successions of crowded imagery showing the passions and pleasures of human life symbolised together, and the mystery of its redemption: for the maze of interwoven lines and changeful pictures lead always at last to the cross, lifted and carved in every place and upon every stone, sometimes with the serpent of eternity wrapped round it, sometimes with doves beneath its arms and sweet herbage growing forth from its feet; but conspieuous most of all on the great rood that crosses the church before the altar, raised in bright blazonry against the shadow of the apse. It is the cross that is first seen and always burning in the centre of the temple, and every dome and hollow of its roof has the figure of Christ in the utmost height of it, raised in power, or returning in judgment.” The true power of the cross is not artistic or literary or political, but moral. It is a spiritually transforming force that penetrates and guides every form of human progress.
IV. Because of personal identification with its triumph over the world.—“By whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14). As the world of feverish pleasure, of legal ordinances, was conquered by the cross, so the faith of the apostle in the crucified One gave him the victory over the world, so that it lost all power to charm or intimidate. The world of evil is doomed, and the power of the cross is working out its ultimate defeat. I have seen a curious photograph of what purports to be a portrait of the Saviour in the days of His flesh, and which by a subtle manipulation of the artist has a double representation. When you first look upon the picture you see the closed eyes of the Sufferer, and the face wears a pained and wearied expression; but as you gaze intently the closed eyes seem to gently open and beam upon you with the light of loving recognition. So as you gaze upon the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ it seems to you the symbol of suffering and defeat, but as you keep your eyes steadily fixed upon it the cross gradually assumes the glory of a glittering crown, incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.
1. The cross is the suggestive summary of saving truth.
2. The cross is the potent instrument of the highest moral conquests.
3. The cross is the loftiest theme of the believer’s glorying.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Galatians 6:14. Christ Crucified.
I. By Christ crucified we have reconciliation with God, remission of sins, and acceptance to eternal life.
II. We have the peace of God, peace with men, with ourselves, with the creatures.
III. We recover the right and title which we had in creation to all the creatures and blessings of God.
IV. All afflictions cease to be curses and punishments, and become either trials or corrections.
V. Those who can truly glory in the cross are dead to the world and the world to them.
VI. We are taught to carry ourselves in the world as crucified and dead men, not to love, but to renounce and forsake it.—Perkins.
Glorying in the Cross of Christ.
I. We glory in the doctrine of the cross—the justification of guilty men through a propitiatory sacrifice—because of its antiquity.—It was taught by patriarchs and prophets, the law of sacrifice was its grand hieroglyphical record, the first sacrifices were its types, the first awakened sinner with his load of guilt fell upon this rock and was supported, and by the sacrifice of Christ shall the last sinner saved be raised to glory.
II. Because it forms an important part of the revelation of the New Testament.
III. As affording the only sure ground of confidence to a penitent sinner.
IV. Because of its moral effects.—Not only in the superstitions and idolatries it has destroyed, the barbarous nations it has civilised, the cruel customs it has abrogated, and the kindly influence it has shed upon the laws and manners of nations; but in its moral effect on individuals, producing the most ardent love to God and kindling benevolence towards all.—Richard Watson.
The True Glory of the Christian.
I. The disposition of mind denoted by the expressions—“The world is crucified unto me; I am crucified to the world.”—
1. The nature of it—a total rupture with the world.
2. The gradations of which it admits. Deadness to avarice and pride—in respect of exertion and actual progress—in respect of hope and fervour.
3. The difficulty, the bitterness, of making a sacrifice so painful.
II. In such a disposition true glory consists.—Comparison between the hero of this world and the Christian hero. The hero derives his glory from the greatness of the master he serves, from the dignity of the persons who have preceded him in the same honourable career, from the brilliancy of his achievements, from the acclamations his exploits excite. How much more the Christian hero!
III. The cross of Christ alone can inspire us with these sentiments.—If we consider it in relation to the atrocious guilt of those who despise it, in relation to the proofs there displayed of Christ’s love, in the proofs it supplies of the doctrine of Christ, and in relation to the glory that shall follow.—Saurin.
The Cross a Burden or a Glory.
I. There is the constant, ordinary discipline of human life.—Life when it is earnest contains more or less of suffering. There is a battle of good and evil, and these special miseries are the bruises of the blows that fill the air, sometimes seeming to fall at random and perplexing our reason, because we cannot rise to such height of vision as to take in the whole field at once.
II. There is the wretchedness of feeling self-condemned.—Law alone is a cross. Man needs another cross—not Simon’s, but Paul’s. He took it up, and it grew light in his hands. He welcomed it, and it glowed with lustre, as if it were framed of the sunbeams of heaven.
III. The same spiritual contrast, the same principle of difference between compulsory and voluntary service, opens to us two interpretations of the suffering of the Saviour Himself.—Neither the cross of Simon nor the cross of Paul was both literally and actually the cross of Christ. Its charm was that it was chosen. Its power was that it was free. The cross becomes glorious when the Son of God takes it up; there is goodness enough in Him to exalt it. It was the symbol of that sacrifice where self was for ever crucified for love.—F. D. Huntington.
The sinner’s refuge.
The sinner’s remedy.
The sinner’s life.
The Glory of the Cross.
I. The cross was the emblem of death.
II. Christ was not only a dead Saviour, but a condemned Saviour.
III. A disgraced Saviour, because the cross was a disgraceful kind of punishment.
IV. Paul gloried in the cross because it is an exhibition of the righteousness of God.
V. Because it proclaims His love.
VI. The contemplation of Christ’s cross helps us to conquer the world.—Newman Hall.
Glorying in the Cross.
I. The subjects in which the apostle gloried.—
1. He might have gloried in his distinguished ancestry.
2. In his polished education.
3. In the morality of his former life.
4. In his extraordinary call to the apostleship.
5. In his high ecclesiastical position.
6. He did not glory in the literal cross.
7. Nor in the metaphorical cross.
8. But in the metonymical cross (1 Corinthians 1:17; Colossians 1:20).
II. The characteristics of the apostle’s glorying.—
1. His glorying was not merely verbal, but practical.
2. Not sectarian, but Christian and catholic.
3. Not temporary, but permanent.
III. The reasons of the apostle’s glorying.—
1. Here he saw a grander display of the divine character and perfections than elsewhere.
2. This was the scene of the most glorious victory ever witnessed.
3. It was the centre of all God’s dispensations.
4. The cross was the most powerful incentive to true morality.
5. Hence flowed all the blessings of the gospel economy.
6. Here was made an atonement equal to the needs of our fallen world.
1. Let us here see the purity of the moral law and the heinousness of sin.
2. Let the sinner come to the cross for pardon, purity, peace, and joy.—W. Antliff.
Glorying in the Cross.
I. Paul’s enthusiasm as expressed in the exclamation of the text.
II. One main source of his zeal lay in the subject of his enthusiasm.—
1. The cross is a fit subject for glory as symbolising an infinite, boundless truth.
2. Because it is an eternal fact.
3. Because it is the ground of man’s justification and the symbol of his redemption.
III. Look at the result—crucifixion to the world.—The true solution of the Christian’s relationship to the world lies in the fact that it is a separation not in space but in spirit.—J. Hutchison, in “Scottish Pulpit.”
Galatians 6:15. Scriptural View of True Religion.
I. What true religion is not.—
1. It is not circumcision nor uncircumcision.
2. It is not an outward thing.
(1) You are not religious because you have been baptised.
(2) Because you are called a Christian, and have been born of Christian parents.
(3) Because you frequent the Church, attend the Lord’s Supper, and are regular at your devotions.
II. What true religion is.—
1. It is not an outward but an inward thing. It is not a new name, but a new nature. A new creation describes a great change in man.
2. The greatness of this change shows also the power by which it is wrought. Creation is a divine work.
3. The rite of circumcision taught the necessity of the change. Though it was a seal of the righteousness of faith, it was also a sign of the inward renewal and purification of the heart. Baptism in the Christian Church teaches the same truth. The texts of Scripture which set forth the evil nature of man set forth the necessity of this great change.—Edward Cooper.
The New Creature.—The new creature is the only thing acceptable to God. It is the renovation of the whole man, both in the spirit of our minds and in the affections of our heart. Neither the substance nor the faculties of the soul are lost by the Fall, but only the qualities of the faculties, as when an instrument is out of tune the fault is not in the substance of the instrument, nor in the sound, but in the disproportion or jar in the sound; therefore the qualities only are renewed by grace. These qualities are either in the understanding or the will and affections. The quality in the understanding is knowledge; in the will and affections they are righteousness and holiness, both which are in truth and sincerity. Holiness performs all the duties of piety, righteousness the duties of humanity, truth seasoning both the former with sincerity.—Ralph Cudworth.
The Necessity of a New Nature.—The raven perched on the rock where she whets her bloody beak, and with greedy eye watches the death-struggles of an unhappy lamb, cannot tune her croaking voice to the mellow music of a thrush; and since it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaketh, how could a sinner take up the strain and sing the song of saints?—Guthrie.
The New Birth begins our True Life.—A stranger passing through a churchyard saw these words written on a tombstone: “Here lies an old man seven years old.” He had been a true Christian only for that length of time.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Galatians 6:16. As many as walk according to this rule.—Of life: a straight rule to detect crookedness. Upon the Israel of God.—Not the Israel after the flesh, but the spiritual seed of Israel by faith.
Galatians 6:17. I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.—The Judaising teachers gloried in the circumcision marks in the flesh of their followers; St. Paul in the scars or brands of suffering for Christ in his own body—the badge of an honourable servitude.
Galatians 6:18. Brethren.—After much rebuke and monition, he bids them farewell with the loving expression of brotherhood as his last parting word, as if Greatheart had meant to say, “After all, my last word is, I love you, I love you.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Galatians 6:16-48.6.18
A Dignified and Touching Farewell—
I. Supplicates the best blessings on the truly righteous.—“As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). Jewish discipline and pagan culture are for ever discredited by the new creation of moral virtue. The rule of the renewed inward life supersedes the works of the condemned flesh. On all who seek to regulate their lives according to this rule the apostle invokes the peace and mercy of God. “Peace is followed by the mercy which guards and restores it. Mercy heals backslidings and multiplies pardons. She loves to bind up a broken heart or a rent and distracted Church. For the betrayers of the cross he has stern indignation and alarms of judgment. Towards his children in the faith nothing but peace and mercy remains in his heart. As an evening calm shuts in a tempestuous day, so this blessing concludes the epistle so full of strife and agitation. We catch in it once more the chime of the old benediction, which through all storm and peril ever rings in ears attuned to its note: “Peace shall be upon Israel” (Psalms 125:5).
II. Pleads the brand of suffering for loyalty to Christ as conclusive proof of authority.—“From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Galatians 6:17). The apostle has sufficiently vindicated his authority by facts and arguments, and he would effectually silence all quibbles on this subject by triumphantly pointing to the marks of suffering on his own body received in his Master’s service. These marks he carried wherever he went, like the standard-bearer of an army who proudly wears his scars. No man would have suffered as Paul did unless he was convinced of the importance of the truth he had received and of his supernatural call to declare the same. Suffering is the test of devotion and fidelity. For a picture of the harassed, battered, famished sufferer in the cause of Christ and His gospel read 2 Corinthians 4:8-47.4.10; 2 Corinthians 11:23-47.11.28. Marks of suffering are more eloquent than words. The highest eminence of moral perfection and influence cannot be reached without much suffering. It is a callous nature indeed that is not touched with the sight of suffering heroically endured. The calm bravery of the early Christians under the most fiendish persecution won many a convert to the truth.
III. Concludes with an affectionate benediction.—“Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen” (Galatians 6:18). Placing the word “brethren” at the end of the sentence, as in the Greek, suggests that, after much rebuke and admonition, the apostle bids his readers farewell with the warm-hearted expression of brotherhood. Notwithstanding fickleness on their part, his love towards them remains unchanged. He prays that the grace of Christ, the distinctive and comprehensive blessing of the new covenant, may continue to rest upon them and work its renewing and sanctifying power upon their spirit, the place where alone it can accomplish its most signal triumphs. Forgiveness for their defection and confidence in their restoration to the highest Christian privileges and enjoyment, are the last thoughts of the anxious apostle. Between them and moral bankruptcy is the prayerful solicitude of a good man.
1. When argument is exhausted prayer is the last resource.
2. Prayer links divine blessing with human entreaty.
3. Last words have about them a solemn and affecting efficacy.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Galatians 6:16. The True Israel of God—
I. Are those who personally enjoy the inward righteousness that comes through faith.
II. Who live consistently with their spiritual profession and the truth they have embraced.
III. Enjoy the divine benedictions of mercy and peace.
Galatians 6:17. Marks of the Lord Jesus.
I. The word-picture here presented.—
1. The figure—slave-brands, στίγματα.
2. The facts—Paul’s historic experiences (1 Corinthians 4:9-46.4.15; 2 Corinthians 11:23-47.11.30).
3. The challenge—“Let no man trouble me.”
II. The suggestion the picture makes.—
1. He who follows the Lord Jesus must expect some will try to trouble him.
2. He whose marks are most conspicuous will be troubled the least.
3. He who has marks may take comfort in knowing how much his Master paid for him.
4. He who is owned may remember that his Master owns and recognises the marks also.
5. He that has no marks is either a better or a poorer Christian than the apostle Paul.
6. Satan outwits himself when he gives a believer more marks.
7. A sure day is coming when the marks will be honourable, for the body of humiliation will be like the glorious body of Christ.—Homiletic Monthly.
I. Ill-marked men.—Think of the marks left on men by sickness, intemperance, impurity, crime, sin of any kind. Evil will always leave its mark.
II. Well-marked men.—
1. Christian marks—the marks of Christ. Paul was the slave of Christ. Some of his marks for Christ were literal, as the weals caused by the rods of the Roman Cæsars, the red lines caused by scourging in Jewish synagogues, the scars caused by repeated stonings. The marks of the Christian are mainly spiritual—marked by trustfulness, gentleness, purity, unselfishness.
2. Distinct marks.—Marked that he may be recognised. If you have the marks of Jesus, confess and obey Him.
3. Deep marks.—Branded on the body, not lines that can easily be removed, but going down to the flesh. Our Christian life is often feeble because it is not deep.
4. Personal marks.—The marks of Jesus of no avail unless you possess them. No man can really trouble you if you bear branded on your body the marks of Jesus.—Local Preacher’s Treasury.
Suffering for Jesus.
I. The scars of the saints for the maintenance of the truth are the sufferings, wounds, and marks of Christ Himself, seeing they are the wounds of the members of that body whereof He is the Head.
II. They convince the persecutors that they are the servants of Christ who suffer thus for righteousness’ sake.
III. If men be constant in their profession—in faith and obedience—the marks of their suffering are banners of victory.—No man ought to be ashamed of them, no more than soldiers of their wounds and scars, but rather in a holy manner to glory of them. Constantine the Great kissed the holes of the eyes of certain bishops who had them put out for their constant profession of the faith of Christ, reverencing the virtue of the Holy Ghost which shined in them.
1. By suffering bodily afflictions we are made conformable to Christ.
2. They teach us to have sympathy with the miseries of our brethren.
3. Our patient enduring of affliction is an example to others and a means of confirming them in the truth.
4. They serve to scour us from the rust of sin.—Perkins.
Galatians 6:18. Concluding Benediction.
I. The apostle invokes the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ—
1. Because He is the fountain of it.
2. Because He is the conduit or pipe by which it is conveyed to us.
II. Christ is called our Lord—
1. By right of creation.
2. Of inheritance.
3. Of redemption.
4. Of conquest.
5. Of contract and marriage.
III. Observe the emphasis with which the apostle concludes the epistle.—
1. Opposing Christ, the Lord of the house, to Moses, who was but a servant.
2. The grace of Christ to inherent justice and merit of works.
3. The spirit in which he would have grace to be seated, to the flesh in which the false teachers gloried so much. 4. Brotherly unity one with another—implied in the word “brethren”—to the proud and lordly carriage of the false teachers.—Ibid.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Galatians 6". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent