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In this Chapter the Apostle concludes his Epistle. He exhorts the Church to Brotherly Affection, and bids them to rest in Hope, assuring, them, that in due Season, they will reap to the Spirit.
(1) ¶ Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (2) Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (3) For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. (4) But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. (5) For every man shall bear his own burden.
There is somewhat uncommonly affectionate, and gracious, in this direction of the Apostle. He calls upon the spiritual, that is, the truly regenerate, to manifest the grace of the Spirit, whose influences they profess to live under, in their conduct towards each other. And as, from the natural weakness, and frailty of their sinful bodies, there will be continual occasion, for the exercise of charity, and forgiveness; Paul here intimates, that in proportion to the largeness of the grace some of them professed to that of others, here the Lord afforded opportunity for exercise. Reader! it is among the highest proofs, that the Spirit of Christ dwells in us, when like Christ, we show forth tenderness and compassion, to the - infirmities of his mystical body. And, surely, as the Apostle adds, a consciousness of our own liability to error, becomes an unanswerable motive, to be tender to the errors of others.
The burdens Paul recommends to assist one another under, can only mean, those spiritual sorrows, which may be soothed by counsel, and by prayer; or those temporal exercises, which a fellow-feeling prompts to, in order to lessen. But Christ is the only Almighty burden-bearer, who hath borne away sin, by the sacrifice of himself. And when the Apostle adds, every man, shall bear his own burden, he cannot be supposed to mean, that a child of God will bear his own sins; because Christ hath once suffered for sin, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. And it is one of the most plain, and unalterable truths of the Scripture, that the Lord hath laid on Christ the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6 . But the Apostle's meaning is, every man hath his own personal exercise, which can only be borne by himself. There is a joy, and there is a sorrow, in which a stranger cannot intermeddle. Proverbs 14:10 . Jesus's sweet law of love, is eminently to be attended to, in every instance, where his people can soften each other's sorrows. John 13:34
(6) Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. (7) Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. (8) For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. (9) And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (10) As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
Within this paragraph, the Apostle hath drawn the outlines of a spiritual man, to distinguish him from one that is wholly carnal. And he makes use of a figure, well known among men, in order to explain. No one that sowed in the earth one kind of grain, ever expected to reap another. And, by a like reasoning, the opposite qualities of flesh and spirit, can never be expected to arise, but as each is sown. The carnal man, in the seed-time of life sowing to the flesh, cannot look forward to the harvest, with an hope to reap spiritually. God is not mocked. Men may deceive themselves, but not the Lord. There will be an exact product, as the man is found carnal or spiritual. Carnal in himself. Spiritual in CHRIST.
But while these are fixed, and unalterable principles, and are here brought forth by the Apostle as an appeal to the common sense of mankind; it should be rightly considered, that Paul is not speaking in relation to the work of God the Spirit on the souls of the regenerate, as though it was their sowing, or hereafter their reaping, will be brought forth from their labors. All is of grace. And, Paul, in this very scripture, so explains it. The reaping of the Lord's people in the end, is of the Lord; for he saith, of the Spirit (not of his own spirit, but God the Holy Ghost) he shall reap life everlasting. Reader! it is very blessed to trace our mercies always to their source. And the Apostle elsewhere urgeth diligence, from this very principle. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13 .
The same train of argument ariseth out of the patience, which the Apostle recommends, in well doing. What well-doing is there of the Child of God, for which he is to expect a reward. Alas! there is nothing, there can be nothing of the creature, for which recompense can be demanded. Sweet are the words of Jesus to this effect, When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded to you, say, we are unprofitable servants, we have done that which was our duty to do. Luke 17:10 . Reader! it is good to lay low at the feet of Jesus, under the deep conviction, that all the good that is done upon earth, the Lord doeth it himself. But the Apostle's train of argument is, that the Lord's people should never be weary, nor faint in their minds; at any exercises they meet with, in the present time-state of their existence. Christ is their portion. And in due season, on his account, and for his sake alone, they will reap the blessed fruits of that inheritance, to which, as his people, they are begotten, by his soul-travail, blood-shedding, and righteousness. The expression is not unsimilar to what is said, Hebrews 6:12 : Be ye not slothful, but followers of them who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises.
(11) ¶ Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand. (12) As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. (13) For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. (14) But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. (15) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. (16) And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. (17) From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. (18) Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
It should seem, from the manner of expression which Paul here useth, of having written this letter with, his own hand, that it was not the usual method with the Apostle to write his Epistles himself, but by the hand of others. That to the Romans, was written by Tertius. Romans 16:22 . Though from a passage in his second Epistle to the Thessalonians, we have authority to conclude, that Paul signed everyone that bears his name, as a token of his Apostolic commission. 2 Thessalonians 3:17 . I do not presume to decide upon this subject, but I venture to suppose, that when at any time Paul felt the divine influence of the Holy Ghost upon him, inclining his mind to send an Epistle to the Church, he availed himself of someone near him; that as the Prophet of old dictated while one wrote from his mouth, so the same Lord the Spirit guided Paul. Jeremiah 36:17-18; Jeremiah 36:17-18 .
The Apostle, in the close of his Epistle, still harps on his favorite subject, the folly, and sin, of observing circumcision. His great design was, to wean from everything, in order to fix their whole soul on Christ. And Reader! I cannot but hope, if under divine teaching, but that from the earnestness with which the Apostle follows up this doctrine in every part of his preachings and writings, you will be led to see the folly, and sin also, of mingling anything with Christ. If Paul totally rejected all carnal ordinances, all self righteousness, both gifts and labors, watchings and prayings, ministrations and services; if all were nothing, yea, worse than nothing in the Apostle's view, for he counted the whole but dung and dross to win Christ and be found in him; what a folly must it be in those who fall so far short of Paul in spiritual attainments, to look off Jesus even for a moment, and fancy that there can be anything in the creature to recommend to God?
I pray the Reader to pause a moment, and observe with me, the blessedness of Paul's expression, concerning the one, and only one object, of all his glorying and his joy. He speaks with a kind of holy indignation and abhorrence, at the bare idea, of a ransomed soul like his, looking at anything, but his Redeemer. God forbid (said he) that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ! By the cross, he means, the Person of Jesus. For faith hath for its one object, the Person of Christ. And, by the cross, he includes the whole of Christ's offices, and characters, in redeeming his Church, during the present time-state of her continuance on earth, from all iniquity. Here was Paul's sole glory. And so is it, and so must it be, in the view of all regenerated souls. Salvation consists not in our attainments. It hath nothing to do with our apprehension of things. It is not what our views are, but what Christ, as the Church's Head, is, in God's view. And this we know, by a voice repeatedly heard from heaven, that God is well pleased in him; that is, in His Person, and His work, as His people's Representative: and therefore, well pleased with Him, and with them in Him. This was Paul's glorying. And, as such, he cries out with abhorrence, at whatever else beside, should be proposed. Reader! what do you say upon the same occasion? Remember, you and I, are as highly concerned as Paul, in the same faith. Are we then founded in the same views, and established in the same confidence? How shall we know? The thing is easily known. The Apostle saith, by those views he had of Christ the world was crucified unto him, and he unto the world. By the world, he includes everything of an opposite tendency. Not barely the pleasures of the world, or the persecutions of the world; but what the people of God sometimes find a bitterer cross than either: self, in self-righteousness, and self-corruption. Oh! what a long, painful, lingering death, is the old man of sin, in sinful self, or righteous self, a dying? It is indeed death like that of the cross. And never totally dead, till the body itself is dead. How often may a child of God find himself taking comfort from somewhat in self, and without an immediate eye to Christ. Whereas the fact is, that salvation is wholly in Christ, and totally abstracted from ourselves. Yea, our very faith, considered as the action of our mind upon Christ, and not always remembered, that Christ is, the Author and Giver of faith; hath nothing to do, in the account. It is not our faith, our regeneration, our life in Christ, our experience, our joy in believing, our peace, and the like; these are no party causes, but elects. Salvation is wholly out of ourselves, and wholly in Christ. Reader! do attend to this distinction; for it is important. Some men are at a loss for it, and are continually questioning about the application of Christ, and his benefits. But their error lies in this, in not simply attending to what God the Holy Ghost teacheth concerning it. There is no such a thing spoken of in the work of God, as to the application of Christ, and his benefits. It is not scriptural, Christ's words are, when speaking of God the Holy Ghost making known Christ, to the soul: He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. John 16:14 . And this the Holy Ghost doth, most sweetly, and completely, and blessedly, when, as in the instance of Paul, he so holds forth Christ, in his fullness, suitableness, and all-sufficiency, that we renounce, as Paul did, everything beside. All self-attainments, all supposed preparations, every idea of anything to recommend a poor sinner, is lost sight of forever; Christ, and Christ alone, is a portion to live upon, in time, and to all eternity. Reader! can you join the Apostle's triumphant song, and say, from the heart, as he did: God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
It were devoutly to be desired, that Paul's observation, on the inutility of circumcision, or uncircumcision, was better understood, and more closely attended to. In the Church of Christ, ordinances are so far profitable, or the contrary, as they are under the unction of the Almighty Minister of the Church, the Holy Ghost. Christ's vision is forever done away. And the new creature by regeneration, is the only infallible mark of belonging to Christ. Ordinances, therefore, to souls that are regenerate, are profitable. But nothing is profitable, where regeneration is not. Baptism of infants, or baptism of riper years, where the baptism of the Holy Ghost accompanieth, are both blessed; for so the Lord Jesus himself hath said: He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved. Believing, and being baptized, Christ joins together. Here it is made a standing ordinance of Christ. But he that believeth not, the Lord adds, shall be damned. It is the belief which flows from regeneration, that makes it blessed. The Lord doth not say, he that is baptized not, but he that believeth not, shall be damned. The new creature, is the only infallible mark of grace. Mark 16:16 . And the Apostle very, blessedly pronounceth the benediction of grace, on all of this description.
I admire what Paul saith, in allusion to his scars and marks, as a faithful soldier of Christ. In taking leave of the Church, he appeals to his exercises, in proof of the truths he had preached to them. And seems to intimate thereby, that if the earnestness of his labors, and his sufferings for Jesus, added to the clear account he had set before them, of justification wholly by Christ, had no effect upon their minds; he requested that he might be troubled no more. And, perhaps, Paul might also intimate, that as it would be an heart-breaking business to hear, that after all his labors for them, that they might be established in the faith, they were still in error: let me not know it, saith Paul, and let not my soul be further troubled, on the occasion. It is my happiness, and mercy, that I am forever bearing about in my body, the dying of the Lord Jesus! Reader! it is a sweet relief to a faithful minister's mind, that, be the event what it may, as it relates to the Church, he can, and doth, appeal to the testimonies of the Lord's Spirit, in confirmation of his ministry. If the Reader wishes to see a lovely Portrait of a faithful Pastor, he may find it drawn in vivid colors, 1 Thessalonians 2:3 to the end.
How affectionately Paul closeth his Epistle. What could he, what ought he to have said, beyond it? Grace, and the grace of the Lord Jesus, is among the highest of all blessings, in the present time-state of the Church, until grace is swallowed up in everlasting glory. Reader! what a thought is it to, refresh the Church, that Christ's grace, is suited for all and sufficient for all his people. Jesus hath every grace, and every suited grace, as shall best correspond to their wants, and his glory. May all the brethren know it enjoy it, live upon it, and live up to it, in all their warfare, for the Redeemer's name's sake, and their happiness, in the full assurance of faith, and covenant mercies, in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Everlasting praises to God the Holy Ghost, for his mercy to the Church, in the gift of this sweet and precious Epistle! God be thanked for the ministry of his servant in it! And God be praised for every single instance of mercy vouchsafed the Church, by it.
We here behold, very clearly, the free, and full justification of Christ's Church, in Christ's Person; and by the sole righteousness of Jesus Christ. In Christ may all the Lord's people be found; and never seek salvation by the works of the law, but solely in the Person, and by the righteousness of Christ. And, oh! for a portion of the same Spirit, which actuated Paul, when he determined to glory only in the cross of Christ; convinced, that nothing, short of a new creature, can give confidence before God.
After having blessed the Lord the Spirit for this sweet Scripture, we would look with affection to Paul, as the highly favored servant of it. Surely, it is profitable to bless God, in, and for, the ministry of his servants; and, therefore, we love the Apostle, for his love to his Master, and zeal in his service. Farewell for the present, Paul! W ho but must love thee, and desire to follow thee, as thou hast followed Christ? Shall we not by and by, meet thee before the throne, and bless our Covenant God together? Even so, Amen. Reader! the grace of our Lord Jesus be with the whole Israel of God! Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Galatians 6". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19