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Bible Commentaries
Galatians 6

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary

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He moveth them to deal mildly with a brother that hath slipped, and to bear one another's burden; to be liberal to their teachers, and not weary of well-doing: he sheweth what they intend that preach circumcision: he glorieth in nothing, save in the cross of Christ.

Anno Domini 49.

THE Apostle, in what follows, recommended to the spiritual men whowere teachers in the Galatian churches, to restore by meek exhortations, and affectionate rebukes, those who were surprised into any fault, Galatians 6:1.—And to sympathize with, and assist one another, in every distress, whereby they would fulfil Christ's law of love, Galatians 6:2.—And because men's neglecting others in their distresses often proceeds from pride, or high opinion of themselves, the Apostle declared, that if any one, especially anyteacher of religion, thinketh himself to be something, yet being nothing, inasmuch as he refuses to do works of love, or as all genuine good springs originally from the free grace of God, he deceiveth himself, Galatians 6:3.—Wherefore, that the Galatian teachers might form a just judgment of themselves, the Apostle exhorted every one to try his own work; and if he found it good, he would have matter of rejoicing in what he is, through the grace of God, and not in the inferiority of others, Galatians 6:4.—This, he informed them, was the true Christian spirit, because every one shall bear his own burden at the judgment, and be treated, not according to the opinion which he has of himself, or which others have of him, but according to what he really is, Galatians 6:5

Having thus instructed the teachers in their duty to the people, he shewed the people their duty to their teachers; for he commanded every one who was instructed in the word, to impart some share of the temporal good things which he enjoyed, to the person who instructed him, Galatians 6:6.—And lest any of them might neglect to provide a proper maintenance for the ministers of the word, on the pretences which an immoderate selfishness is ready to suggest; he assured them, that, as certainly as men reap the kind of grain which they sow, Galatians 6:7.—so certainly he, who neglecting the works of faith and love, soweth to his flesh, by employing himself in procuring the gratification of his fleshly appetites, shall, from such a course, reap corruption. Whereas he who soweth to the Spirit, the good seed of knowledge and holiness, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting, Galatians 6:8. And therefore he exhorted the Galatians, while they had opportunity, to do good to all, especially to them who were of the household of faith, Galatians 6:9-10.—Next, he desired them to consider what pains he had taken, in writing so large a letter to them with his own hand, to secure them against the sophistryof the false teachers, Galatians 6:11.—And having mentioned these impostors, he could not finish his letter without observing, that the earnestness with which they pressed circumcision proceeded entirely from their desire to live in pleasure, and to avoid persecution for preaching salvation through a crucified Messiah, Galatians 6:12.—To prove this, he assured the Galatians, that these circumcised teachers did not themselves keep the law; but they wished them to be circumcised, that they might boast among the unbelieving Jews of their having proselyted them to Judaism, Galatians 6:13.—But, with respect to himself, he told them, that he had no worldly views whatever in converting them, through the grace of God, and never wished to boast in any thing, but in the doctrine of salvation through the cross of Christ, by which the world was crucified to him, and he to the world, Galatians 6:14.—Then declared a second time, (see chap. Galatians 5:6.) that neithercircumcision availeth any thing, as a preparation for eternal glory, nor uncircumcision, but an entire change of principles, dispositions, and actions, Galatians 6:15.—And wished peace and mercy to all who earnestly followed that rule, and laboured, by the grace of God through faith, to be new creatures, and to be thereby of the Israel of God, and the spiritual seed of Abraham, to whom the promises belonged, Galatians 6:16.—And having, in this Epistle, plainly declared, and fully established the doctrine of justification by faith, he forbade the false teachers to trouble him any more on account of that doctrine, as he bare on his body marks of his sufferings for the gospel, whereby his sincerity in the things which he preached was put beyond all doubt, Galatians 6:17.—Then concluded with giving the Galatians his Apostolic benediction, Galatians 6:18.

Verse 1

Galatians 6:1. Brethren, &c.— The Apostle here exhorts the stronger to gentleness and meekness towards the weak: "If a man, by frailty or surprize, be overtaken in a fault, do you who are eminent in the church for knowledge, practice, and gifts, raise him up again, and set him aright with gentleness and meekness; considering thyself." The sudden transition from the plural number to the singular, adds a great deal of beauty and force to the caution: for it is as if the Apostle had said, "Let every particular person among you remember, that he also may be in danger, through his own frailty; and by thus looking to himself, he will be induced to behave with greater tenderness and benevolence to others."

Verse 2

Galatians 6:2. Bear ye one another's burdens, "Bear with one another's infirmities; help to support each other, under the necessary burdens and evils of life;—and so fulfil the law of Christ." See Rom 15:1 and 1 Thessalonians 5:14. There were some among them very zealous for the law of Moses: St. Paul here puts them in mind of a law which they were under, and were obliged to observe; and he shews them how to do it; namely, by helping to bear one another's burdens, and not by increasing their burdens by the observance of the Levitical law. See John 13:34-35.

Verses 4-5

Galatians 6:4-5. Shall he have rejoicing, &c.— Shall he have whereof to rejoice. The meaningof the passage is this: "Brethren, there are some among you who would bring others under the ritual observances of the Mosaic law; a yoke which was too heavy for us and our fathers to bear. They would do much better to ease the burdens of the weak; this is suitable to the law of Christ, which they are under, and is the law which they ought strictly to obey. If they think, because of their spiritual gifts, that they have power to prescribe in such matters, I tell them that they have not, and do but deceive themselves: let them rather take care of their own experience and practice, that they be right, and such as they ought to be; this will give them matter of rejoicing in themselves, and not vainly in others, as they do, when they prevail with them to be circumcised; for every man shall be answerable for his own actions, experience, and conduct, whether of an internal or external kind."

Verse 6

Galatians 6:6.— St. Paul having laid some restraint upon the authority and forwardness of the teachers and leading men among them, who were, as it seems, more ready to impose what they ought not on the Galatians, than to keep them forward in the practice of gospel obedience, he here takes care of them in respect of their maintenance; and exhorts the Galatians to liberality towards them, and in general towards all men, especially Christians, Galatians 6:6-10. The word communicate here signifies to give liberally. All good things may imply, not only maintenance and subsistence, but likewise other branches of benevolence and respect.

Verse 7

Galatians 6:7. Be not deceived; The Apostle here, with great propriety and force, exposes the evasions that some would make use of to excuse themselves from acts of liberality; by which, however they might impose on others, they would egregiously deceive themselves, as every circumstance lies open to an all seeing God, and they assuredly should reap according as they sowed; (a metaphor which he employs elsewhere to excite to liberality, 2 Corinthians 9:6.) the thought whereof must silence every vain pretence that may be brought against so plain a duty, and is most admirably suited to regulate and heighten the proportion, as well as to enforce the practice of it.

Verse 10

Galatians 6:10. Unto them who are of the household of faith. "To them who are united to us in the bonds of Christian faith and love; and who, on that account, as belonging to one family, and heirs of the same hope, have certainly the first claim to our regard and assistance."

Verse 11

Galatians 6:11. Ye see how large a letter, &c.— The original has been taken in different senses by interpreters, both ancient and modern. The Vulgate has it, with what letters; Castalio, with how many letters; Erasmus, how large a letter; and Beza, how long a letter. St. Paul mentions his writing with his own hand, as an argument of his great regard for the Galatians. And, as it was not usual for him to write his Epistles with his own hand, excepting the conclusion, or some importantsentence, he might very well say, that, in comparison with his usual custom, he had written a very large letter, and might urge the largeness of the letter as a proof of his sincere regard for their interest.

Verse 12

Galatians 6:12. Only lest they should suffer persecution This seems to open the main secret springof that zeal for the Jewish ceremonies in some who professed themselves Christians, which occasioned so much uneasiness in the apostolic churches. The persecuting edicts of the Jewish Sanhedrim, whose influence extended to remote synagogues, had induced many, who secretly believed in Christ, to decline an open acknowledgment of him: (see John 9:22; John 12:42; John 19:38.) But afterwards, when a scheme arose for blending Judaism with Christianity, it might be supposed that this would blunt the edge of persecution, especially with respect to those who urged the Gentile converts to conform to the Jewish rites. St. Jerome observes, that Tiberius and Caius Caesar made laws to authorize the Jews who were dispersed throughout the Roman empire, to follow the rites of their religion, and the ceremonies transmitted from their fathers. Circumcised Christians were therefore, by the Pagans, looked upon as Jews; while those who made profession of the Gospel, and were not circumcised, were violently persecuted, both by Pagans and Jews. Nay, the Jews even took the pains to send persons into all countries, to accuse the Christians of atheism and other crimes, to make them as odious as they could, and subject them to the cognizance and punishment of the civil magistrate. To avoid all these inconveniences, some pusillanimous Christians conformed to the Jewish ceremonies; and though they did notchoose to renounce Christianity, yet they were, to all outward appearance, the professors of a religion which Christianity was to abolish, and with which it was incompatible.

Verse 13

Galatians 6:13. That they may glory in your flesh. "May glory in this mark of circumcision, fixed in your flesh, and boast of the many converts to Judaism which they have had the interest and address to make." See on Galatians 6:4-5.

Verse 15

Galatians 6:15. But a new creature. Καινη κτισις, a new creation;—which strongly impresses the greatness of the change made in men by Christianity, thoroughly and experimentally entertained.

Verse 16

Galatians 6:16. And as many as walk, &c.— St. Paul having asserted, in the foregoing verse, that it is the new creation alone which qualifies men to be proper members of the kingdom of Christ, and puts them into the possession of the privileges thereof, this verse may be understood also as assertory,—peace shall be on them, rather than as a prayer, unless there werea verb which expressed it;—especially considering that he writes this Epistle to encourage them to refuse circumcision.—To which end, the assuring them that those who do so shall have peace and mercy from God, is of more force than to tell them, he prays that they may have peace and mercy. And for the same reason I understand the Israel of God to be the same with those who walk by this rule, though joined with them by the copulative και, and; which is no very unusual way of speaking.

Verse 17

Galatians 6:17. I bear in my body Archbishop Potter thinks, that the Apostle here alludes to the στιγματα, or brands, with which the Greeks used to mark those who were appointed to serve in the wars, lest they should attempt to make their escape. Others suppose, that the reference may be to those marks by which the votaries of particular heathen deities were distinguished. Mr. Blackwall considers it as an allusion to an Egyptian custom; according to which, any man's servant who fled to the temple of Hercules, and had the sacred brands or marks of that Pagan deity impressed upon him, was supposed to be under his immediate care and protection, and by that to be privileged from all violence and harsh treatment. In this view St. Paul's words are to be understood thus: "Let no man who professes veneration and faith in our common Saviour, give me, his fellow-servant,any disturbance or vexation, in the course of my ministry, and discharge of my duty, since I bear in my body his sacred marks:—the bruises and impressions of violence and cruelty, which I have received in his glorious service, will be upon me till I go down to the grave; therefore I esteem myself as sacred and devoted to my divine Master; and may as justly claim the civility and charityof all the worshippers and lovers of the Lord Jesus in sincerity, as I firmly hope and depend on the gracious acceptance and protection of our great Lord himself."*

* See Locke, Taylor, Michaelis, Lardner, Wall, Hammond, Calmet, Henry, Tillotson, Heylin, Clarke, Grotius, Wells, Bengelius, Lyttleton, Doddridge, Whitsius, Whitby, Hardouin, Jefferys, Wolsius, Wetstein, Beza, Baxter, Warburton, Peter Whitfield, Diodati, Howe, Burnet, Bedford, Mintert, Mill, Castalio, Selden, Dr. Chandler, Bishop Chandler, Markland, Bowyer, Peirce, Sharpe, Sykes, Le Clerc, Hallett, Weston, Blackwall, Ward, Jortin, and Potter.

Inferences.—The exhortations here urged by the Apostle cannot be expressed in more lively terms, and it is scarcely possible to present them in clearer and plainer language. The great difficulty here, and in other such instances, is, to bring our hearts to submit to what our understandings must so readily apprehend and approve. Let us earnestly pray, that God would diffuse more of his Spirit on all professing Christians; that, beholding each other with undissembled and fervent love, every one may affectionately endeavour to advance the happiness of all: and, instead of severely censuring one another, let us endeavour for mutual reformation, by such exhortations and advices as different circumstances may require, doing all in the spirit of Christian meekness, and in a humble sense of our own infirmities.

There is as certain a connection between our conduct here and our state hereafter, as there is between the kind of grain sown and the harvest to be reaped from it. The generality, alas! are sowing to the flesh, and the harvest to such will be shame and corruption. Let us, then, for our parts, sow to the Spirit, liberally and largely, and have our fruit unto holiness, that so we may at length inherit everlasting life: and whenever we may be ready to faint under our toil, let us encourage ourselves and each other with the blessed prospect of that day, when, though the seed-time may be attended with tears, we may come again rejoicing, and bring with us rich sheaves of honour and of joy. Psalms 126:5-6. It is in due season, it is at the time which God hath wisely appointed, that we shall, if faithful, receive this reward of grace; let us then wait for it, as we well may, with patience and humility.

The day is coming, when every one shall bear his own burden, and each of us shall answer for himself:—that awful day, when every one shall reap the fruit of his own way, and receive according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad, 2 Corinthians 5:10. Be it our care, therefore, not to deceive ourselves with a vain imagination, that we are something when we are nothing; and not be so satisfied to rest in the good opinion which others have of us, as to have our rejoicing in them. Whatever duty may be required of us, let us not amuse ourselves with trifling excuses, which never can deceive that GOD who is not to be mocked; but earnestly set ourselves continually to cultivate true inward religion, even that of the heart, in the sight of Him who searcheth it; so will the testimony of our conscience be a source of joy, and we shall find that joy solid and permanent.

Nor, if God bless the ministers of his gospel, as the instruments of bringing this joy to the soul, will it fail of being attended with that readiness which the Apostle requires, to communicate to them in all good things? while, if they understand their character and office, there will be in them that moderation and desire, on the one hand, and that zeal and love for souls on the other, which will render it a thousand times more pleasant to communicate spirituals, than to receive temporals, even from those who give with the most willing mind, and so double the gift, whether it be greater or less.

What meanness is there in those views, or objects, in which the generality of mankind are so apt to glory! How little satisfaction can there be in making proselytes to a party, and spreading forms and notions, when compared with the joy of promoting true religion in the hearts of men, and thereby advancing the glory of God, and the salvation of immortal souls! And of what little service will it be to make a fair appearance, and to be zealous for the externals of religion, so as to gain the applause of men, and to have many followers, if, at the same time, we have so little veneration for the cross of Christ, as to be afraid or ashamed of owning the necessity of relying on his cross—his sufferings unto death, and infinite merit alone, for justification, lest we should suffer persecution upon that account, or be exposed to the reproaches of the world about us!

May divine grace teach us to esteem the cross of Christ more highly, and to glory in nothing but our knowledge of it, and our hopes and expectations from it! May we all feel its vital efficacy, to crucify us to the world, and the world to us; that we may look upon the world but as a thing dead and worthless, which neither can afford us any advantage, nor yield any pleasure to engage our hearts to choose it for our portion. Thus, being crucified and dead to all things in it, may we be so entirely weaned from all affection thereto, as to make it no more our principal design and study to pursue it: but, being indifferent both to its smiles and frowns, may we be neither moved by any prospect of self-interest on the one hand, nor terrified by the fear of persecution on the other!

Nor let us lay the stress of our religion on the name we bear, or ground the hope of our acceptance on being of this or that denomination of Christians.—Let it rather be our chief concern to experience a thorough change of heart and life, and to obtain that renovation of soul, that new creation, without which neither circumcision nor uncircumcision can avail any thing, and with which the one as well as the other will be accepted of God.

It is the written word of God which is the rule that we are to go by, both in the doctrines and precepts of it: let us be careful to walk according to it, and perseveringly regulate our principles and conduct by its sacred institutes: then will God acknowledge us as his true Israel, and mercy and peace shall crown our Christian warfare. And surely, how diligently soever we observe this rule, how exactly soever we conform to its direction, how much soever we may suffer for our adherence to it, yet still we depend upon mercy for the communication of peace, and must ascribe all our hopes of happiness to pardoning clemency and free grace. May that grace ever be with our spirit, to sanctify, to quicken, and to cheer us; and may we always be ready to maintain the honour of that, which is, indeed, our very life. Amen.

REFLECTIONS.—1st. As he had so warmly recommended to them that love which would engage them to serve one another, he passes on to the exercise of it, in several instances.

1. Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, through surprise, temptation, or human frailty, ye which are spiritual, and strong in the grace which is in Jesus Christ, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, with all the tenderness with which an able surgeon handles a dislocated joint, in order to reduce it; using, not rough reproaches, but tender expostulations; considering thyself, as no man is secure, lest thou also be tempted, and suffered to fall, to punish the undue severity you may have used towards others, and justly to smart under the same scourge. Note; (1.) A sense of our own weakness will make us compassionate an offending brother. (2.) Peculiar tenderness is needful, when the soul is already vexed and grieved by sin, lest we drive those to despair whom we should lead to repentance. (3.) Angry reproofs, however great the provocation may be, never can do good.

2. Bear ye one another's burdens, sympathizing with the afflicted, patient with the infirmities of the weak, and desirous to alleviate every grief under which your brethren groan, by your prayers, your counsel, or your substance; and so fulfil the law of Christ, that law of love, which he has taught both by precept and example.

3. In humility, every man should watch over, and examine himself. For if a man think himself to be something extraordinary, and self-sufficient to withstand every temptation, when, in fact, he is nothing, and has no strength of his own which he does not derive from Christ, he deceiveth himself, as he will find, by dire experience, when he comes to be tried. But let every man prove his own work, examining into his principles and practice according to the gospel rule; and then, if he find a happy correspondence between them, shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another; he will exult in the blessed testimony of the Spirit and his own conscience, ascribing to the grace of God what has been wrought in him; and will seek no glory from human applause, nor desire to rake up the faults of others, as a foil to set off his own excellencies; satisfied, if God in Christ Jesus accepts and approves his services. For every man shall bear his own burden, and stand or fall, not according to the opinion he has entertained of himself, or which others form of him, but according to the decision of the eternal Judge. Note; (1.) A high opinion of ourselves ever argues great ignorance of our own hearts. (2.) The testimony of a good conscience is matter of solid satisfaction.

4. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things, contributing liberally and cheerfully to the support of a gospel ministry, for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Be not deceived by your deluding teachers, who would engross your regard, nor by the covetousness of your own hearts, which would divert you from this or any other instance of liberality; God is not to be mocked by vain pretences; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap, according to his work will be his wages. For he that soweth to his flesh, making provision for it to fulfil the lusts thereof, or inordinately anxious to hoard up worldly wealth, to the defrauding of God's cause, or the poor, such a man shall of the flesh reap corruption; his perishing acquisitions will soon be fled, and endless misery succeed: but he that soweth to the Spirit, in every instance of bounty and benevolence, under the Spirit's guidance, laying out himself, his time, his talents, perseveringly, for the glory of Christ, and the good of his people, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting, and, in eternity, receive the blessed recompence of his deeds. And let us not be weary in well-doing, though we may not see all the happy effects that we expected; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Nothing can be lost which is employed in God's service; though, like the seed under the clod, it may seem to be buried for a while, it will surely spring up, and afford a plenteous increase, often in this world, and to the faithful soul always in a better.

5. This is the day for labour; therefore we should diligently improve it. And, as we have opportunity, let us, according to our abilities, do good unto all men, with liberal hearts and open hands, not restraining our charity to any party, or nation; though especially exercising it unto them who are of the household of faith, for whom we are bound, by peculiar ties of love and duty, particularly to interest ourselves, as children of the same family, and heirs of the same inheritance.

2nd, Though in his other Epistles he usually employed an amanuensis, yet, out of his great affection to the church of Galatia, he wrote this long letter on so important a subject with his own hand. And now, being about to conclude, he
1. Marks out to them the true character of their seducing teachers, that they may beware of them. As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, and, by their pompous professions and zeal for the ceremonials of religion, would insinuate themselves into your confidence, they constrain you to be circumcised, and urge this upon you as necessary to salvation, when, in fact, their design is not your good, but their own ease and honour; for they do it only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ, from the furious zealots for Judaism, who cannot bear the doctrine of free justification through faith in Christ alone, without circumcision or the works of the law: for, eager as their are for your submitting to this rite, neither they themselves, who are circumcised, keep the law in its moral purity, rigidly as they are attached to the ceremonials of it; but they desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh, and make a merit of it with their countrymen, that you are their proselytes to circumcision. Note; (1.) They who are ashamed of the cross, are assuredly the enemies of Christ. (2.) Many make their boast of the form of religion, who are the greatest strangers to the power of it.

2. He declares to them his own temper and conduct. What the false teachers were ashamed of, he gloried in: God forbid that I should glory in external privileges, attainments, gifts, duties, or any thing else, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in that atoning sacrifice which he there offered, as my whole dependance for pardon and acceptance with God; by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world; through faith in him I am mortified to all its allurements, honours, and interests, and content to be treated with that contempt and virulent enmity which, for the truth's sake, I suffer from a world that lieth in wickedness. Note; (1.) The cross is the glorious object ever in the Christian's eye; for to the sacrifice there offered he is indebted for all his hopes in time and eternity. (2.) Faith in a crucified Jesus is the victory that overcometh the world, and nothing else can enable us to do it.

3. He lays down the essential point of true Christianity. For in Christ Jesus, with regard to the salvation which is in and from him, neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; the one is no advantage, the other no obstruction: but that which must prove our interest in Christ, and that we are partakers of the grace of God in truth, is our becoming new creatures, having our principles, tempers, and conduct, cast into the mould of the gospel, through the mighty energy of faith, which worketh by love.

4. He offers up his prayers for those who held fast the truth, and gives them encouragement. As many as walk according to this rule, laid down in this Epistle, with regard to justification by faith, and the new creature, without respect to circumcision, or uncircumcision, peace be on them, or peace shall be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God; may they enjoy peace with God, and in their own consciences, and every divine mercy which is purchased by the crucified Jesus for his faithful people, who, whether Jews or Gentiles, are God's spiritual Israel. See the Annotations.

5. He, with authority, enjoins them to give him no farther trouble on this point, but to submit to his apostolic warnings and reproofs. From henceforth let no man trouble me with farther disputes and contentions, or with injurious reproaches, as if I had ever countenanced the doctrine of these Judaizing teachers; the contrary of which is most evident: I have ever opposed them, and severely suffered for it; for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus, the scars of the wounds and stripes endured for his sake, the signs of my conformity to him, and of my adherence to the offensive doctrines of his cross, and particularly of Justification by faith alone. Note; It is a proof that we believe the doctrines we preach, when we dare boldly suffer for them, and can produce the glorious scars received in the service of the Captain of our salvation.

6. He concludes with his usual benediction. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, Amen! The treatment which he had received from them, did not quench his love towards them. Earnest to promote their salvation, he prays that they may experience the inestimably precious love of a dying Redeemer, and partake of all the invaluable privileges which he freely bestows on his faithful saints, even pardon, peace, comfort, holiness, and eternal life.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Galatians 6". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/galatians-6.html. 1801-1803.
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